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Tue, June 18

January marks start of ticketing for hand-held-device offenders
Quad Cities, county unite against cellphone use while driving

Dean Thompson, left, and Nate Starin, traffic control employees with the Prescott Public Works Department, installs a new sign along Iron Springs Road that alerts drivers to the city’s new ban on using hand-held electronic devices while driving. The sign was one of a number of similar warnings that will be going up along Prescott streets in coming days. After a month-and-a-half-long education/warning period, the Police Department was authorized, beginning Jan. 1, to begin citing offenders of the new ordinance. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Dean Thompson, left, and Nate Starin, traffic control employees with the Prescott Public Works Department, installs a new sign along Iron Springs Road that alerts drivers to the city’s new ban on using hand-held electronic devices while driving. The sign was one of a number of similar warnings that will be going up along Prescott streets in coming days. After a month-and-a-half-long education/warning period, the Police Department was authorized, beginning Jan. 1, to begin citing offenders of the new ordinance. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

It is now official virtually everywhere in the quad-city area: Use a hand-held cellphone while driving, and be subject to a fine of $100 or more.

After a month-and-half-long grace period that involved warnings for offenders, the City of Prescott’s new ban on hand-held devices while driving became active on Jan. 1.

Likewise, Yavapai County has been in the warning/education mode for the countywide ordinance that became effective Nov. 2, and deputies continue to have the discretion to cite and fine offenders.

Meanwhile, the Town of Chino Valley has passed a hand-held-device driving ban of its own, effective Jan. 1, and the Town of Dewey-Humboldt has approved a resolution of support for the county’s ordinance.

Later this month, on Jan. 19, a new ordinance in the Town of Prescott Valley will go into effect — effectively blanketing the Quad Cities in a cellphone-use-while-driving ban.

TICKETING SET TO BEGIN

That means that officers who spot a driver on a cellphone or other hand-held device can make a traffic stop and issue a ticket and fine of between $100 and $125 or more, depending on the jurisdiction.

The Prescott City Council approved its ordinance in October, and it went into effect in late November. For the last several weeks of the year, though, the council instructed the Police Department to issue warnings to offenders, with ticketing set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

David Fuller, lead police officer and public information officer for the Prescott Police Department, reported this week that officers had issued eight warnings to offenders during the last weeks of 2018.

So far this year, Fuller said, city officers have yet to issue a ticket on the new law.

Dwight D’Evelyn, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Media Relations coordinator, reported Thursday, Jan. 3, that the Sheriff’s Office had been in a “warning/education mode” throughout December, and had documented 12 distracted driving warnings in 2018, but no tickets.

For the new year, he said, “Deputies continue to have the discretion to cite on this and other traffic offenses in context with the circumstances.”

The local ordinances do not ban cellphone use altogether; they typically allow hands-free use of devices through dash-mount devices or phone headsets.

DISTRACTED DRIVING CAMPAIGN

Chris Bridges, administrator of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization (CYMPO), notes that using a cellphone while driving is just one of the many distractions that can lead to unsafe driving.

CYMPO, the region’s transportation-planning group, has taken the lead locally to heighten awareness about the dangers of driving distractions — including talking on a cellphone, eating, personal grooming, dealing with a pet, and reading.

CYMPO began its campaign against districted driving in 2016 with a series of TV commercials that equated driving to other activities that require concentration, such as flying a plane, conducting a surgery, and cutting down a tree.

After the county approved its ban, Bridges said, “It was amazing how quickly all the municipalities” approved similar ordinances.

Although the official ban on cellphone use while driving was not the initial goal of CYMPO’s campaign, Bridges said the move by the county and area municipalities help with CYMPO’s ultimate goal: “We’re trying to help reduce fatalities,” he said.

Tangible results likely will not be immediate, however. “That’s going to take a lot more time,” Bridges said. “People don’t change habits easily.”

But eventually, he said, hand-held cellphone use while driving could become socially unacceptable. Bridges equated it to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign in the 1980s. “The anti-drunk-driving (campaign) took a good decade to catch on,” he said.

Efforts are still underway for a statewide ban on use of hand-held devices while driving, Bridges said, noting that at the start of the 2019 legislative session, CYMPO will participate in the annual Arizona Districted Driving Summit at the State Capitol (Wesley Bolin Plaza), on Jan. 23.

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