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DPS chief hopes distracted driving ban will reduce red light crashes

(Wikimedia Photo)

PHOENIX — The director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety says he hopes the state’s new distracted driving law will help cut down on fatal crashes caused by drivers running red lights.

Col. Frank Milstead made the comments the day after AAA released a report saying Arizona was the worst state for red light-running crash fatalities.

“You just have to drive down any street in Arizona and people are looking at their phone, typing and wandering out of their lanes,” Milstead told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show on Friday.

Once the new law goes into full effect in 2021 and authorities are able to penalize people for handling their phones while driving, he said he hopes the numbers will dip.

Police are now issuing warnings until they can fine drivers $75 to $149 for first offenses and $150 to $250 for subsequent violations.

Milstead said red light cameras are also helpful for preventing crashes.

“They do help. They’re not a panacea obviously to the problem, but they do help, they do make a difference,” he said.

However, something that does concern him is that one measure cities have taken to make intersections safer seems to not be preventing crashes.

“The thing that’s even scarier about that statistic is … every city in the Valley right now, they go to a four-way red,” he said.

“The whole intersection is red for at least a second, sometimes two, to take care of the red light-runners.”

Ultimately, he said, it’s up to drivers to make safe choices while on the road.

“People have got to understand that they’ve got to pay attention when they’re driving,” he said.

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