By Frank Hinds, Executive Director
In Arizona, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of our legislators to pass laws that ban texting while driving as well as cell phone use in general.
I don’t necessarily agree with this, however, if lawmakers are against new laws dealing with these distractions, I suggest utilizing the Reckless Endangerment law (ARS13-1201)already on the books.
Reckless endangerment is a crime consisting of acts that create a substanial risk of serious physical injury or death to another person. The accused isn’t required to intend the resulting or potential harm, but must have acted in a way that showed a disregard for the foreseeable consequences of the actions.
(ARS28-693) A person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
It seems reasonable to me that driving distractions such as texting, making cell phone calls, applying makeup, etc. fall into the category of “creating a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death to another person”. Distracted drivers generally don’t set out to intentially cause harm to others, but their actions while driving clearly show a reckless disregard for the safety of others on the roadway.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates driver distraction is a factor in 25% of all crashes. Furthermore, distracted driving delays a driver’s reaction time equal to that of a legally impaired driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%.
If tougher laws aren’t in our future, then it’s time for law enforcement to use what’s available. Distracted drivers who cause injuries and death on our roadways should be charged under the Reckless Endangerment statute. Bad driving behavior won’t change until we get serious about the penalities.