TUCSON- The Tucson City Council voted 4-2 to change the current hands-free cellphone ordinance from a secondary to a primary offense.
In March 2017, the council adopted a secondary offense ordinance, which meant police had to have another reason (violation) to cite a driver for using their phone in a non-hands-free manner.
According to council member Steve Kozachik, the Tucson Police Department has issued 140 citations since May 1, the date the ordinance went into effect.
The council as a whole agrees distracted driving is an issue not just in Tucson but across the country.
"We have to be sure that we are using every tool in the toolbox available to limit the number of accidents and pedestrian deaths that we have,” said council member Paul Cunningham.
Regina Romero and Richard Fimbres voted against the ordinance alteration, expressing skepticism over the law’s ability to change people’s behavior when behind the wheel.
Romero noted she’s concerned about the possibility of police racial profiling, although Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said during the meeting, data doesn’t illustrate a climate of such activity.
"It may have unintentional negative safety consequences and invite law enforcement to engage in discretionary stops,” Romero said.
"Distracted driving is a big issue and this is a concern but there's distracted bicyclists, there's distracted motorcyclists, there's even skateboarders with motors that are distracted,” Fimbres said.
For Deborah Breslin and Beverly Lucke, who both lost their husbands to distracted drivers, the Tucson City Council’s ultimate decision is comforting, although there’s still a long road ahead to really change driver behavior.
“It’s not over. This is new to me so the education that I can do will be wonderful I hope,” Breslin said.
“If I can save a life, save my life by helping to show up and give my two cents to the process, I’m willing to do that,” Lucke said.
As part of the amendment, the fines for violating the hands-free ordinance have been reduced to $50 for a first offense and $100 for the second offense.
The updated ordinance will take into effect once officially adopted at the next city council meeting.