Guest Editorial: The Ban That Will Hopefully Billow

By The Tempe Tree

No municipality envies what the City of Tempe has gone through the last couple weeks. First, Tempe police arrested four protesters outside of Tempe City Hall. Next let’s not forget the lawsuit filed by the owner of PARC Dispensary against the city for interference with his vested property rights as he seeks to open a previously-entitled medical marijuana dispensary at a retail/medical/office complex in south Tempe. You can read about that here.  

Alas, hold the phone! Last Thursday, Tempe finally received some positive media coverage. At a city council meeting, Tempe’s elected officials unanimously passed an ordinance that bans drivers from handheld phone use. It doesn’t matter whether a driver is texting or talking. Drivers must hang up the cell phone or put off sending that email and actually drive.  

The new ordinance is progressive and well-written. For the first 30 days, officers will issue warnings. After this period, if police catch a driver doing it, the first offense would be $100. A second violation would jump to $250, and subsequent violations within a 24-month period would be $500. Additionally, there are exceptions carved into the law. For instance, drivers can access their phones if they’re stopped at a light or parked on the side of a road. 

While three West Valley cities (El Mirage, Glendale and Surprise) have already enacted bans on drivers holding phones to talk or text, Tempe is the first city in the East Valley to pass such a prohibition. The statistics are alarming and cities need to get ahead of this problem. At any given time throughout the day, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile. The National Safety Council found that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Lastly, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving under the influence.

We’re no fans of over-regulation, but occasionally, our cities must enact tough laws. We hope that other towns statewide follow Tempe’s lead.