Guest Editorial: Hold the Phone!

By Scottsdale Pinetop

Since their inception, automobiles have placed speed and power in the hands of individuals. But with any new freedom also come dramatic new risks – risks that our government has been forced to overcome. For the 80s, it was the increase of individuals drinking and driving. In the 90s, it was the enforcement of seat belts.

Now in the digital age, it is the constant need to stay connected that is causing many motorists to take their eyes off the road. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona reported 741 distracted driving related accidents in 2017. Yet, Arizona is one of three states that does not have a law against distracted driving. This is nuts.

In light of this and after years of failed attempts, the Scottsdale City Council has decided to finally take action – thanks largely to the efforts and push of Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp.

Last week in a 6-1 vote, the council directed the City Manager’s office to look further into the matter at which point the councilmembers will take action. This decision comes on the heels of the death of Salt River police officer Clayton Townsend who was killed by a texting driver on the Loop 101.

According the Councilwoman Klapp, “It’s is long overdue.” And she’s right. The City of Tempe, Phoenix and 17 other cities and counties in the state have taken on the issue, many of which have passed their own regulations on distracted driving since the state will not. Why is Scottsdale, considered one of the safest places in the state, so late to address this issue? It’s disappointing to say the least. This is a no-brainer. Protecting our roads is a legitimate role of our government – from red light photo enforcement to enforcing speed limits. Limitations on phone use while driving should be added to that list.

A law against the use of cell phones while driving is not only imperative but also desperately needed. It would be natural to think that common sense would be enough. But unfortunately, effective change requires legal enforcement. History has proven that getting a texting ban through the state legislature is a tall task. This has left the responsibility to local communities to protect its streets and drivers. We commend Councilwoman Klapp for stepping up as a leader and for taking the first steps forward to effectively create change. Thank you for keeping our roads and residents safe. And in doing so, you honor Officer Townsend, Paradise Valley Planning Commissioner Jim Anton and so many other that have been killed or injured due to texters while driving.