Coconino County Moves To Ban Cell Phones While Driving
By Elisha Dorfsmith
Last year the Flagstaff City Council voted to reject a ban on texting while driving. Many expected the Coconino County Board of Supervisors to try to override the City vote with a ban on texting at the County level. Today it was reported that the County wants to go a step further and actually ban cellphones while driving. If approved, this law would also apply to the City of Flagstaff unless the Flagstaff City Council voted to opt out.
While the move to ban cellphones is not surprising, it does bring up some legitimate concerns.
Talking on a cellphone will now be considered a more serious offense than not wearing a seat belt. Currently, if you are not wearing a seat belt in Arizona a police officer will have to find a different reason to pull you over before they can ticket you. The new County cellphone law will make talking on the phone while driving a primary offense and that means anyone who even looks like they may be talking on a cell phone can be pulled over and charged.
Giving police the power to pull people over for the suspicion of cellphone use should be a concern to anyone who has experienced police harassment or racial profiling. The way this law is written makes it ripe for abuse. If a cop doesn’t like the way someone looks, if they don’t like someone’s bumper stickers, if they don’t like whatever they now have another tool they can use to pull you over and harass you or search your car. When you finally get before a judge to try to prove that you were not using your cellphone at the time you were pulled over the damage has already been done.
Some would argue that the police already have enough excuses to pull people over and adding one more to the list won’t change things much. I would argue that every excuse to harass and fine people who are driving safely and not breaking traffic laws is another opportunity for injustice.
Law enforcement considers this law to be a great opportunity for more revenue and I’m sure the County Board has dollar signs in their eyes too. I hope those making the decision will at least consider the negative implications before giving it their stamp of approval.
4-25-2014 UPDATE: Coconino County approved the cell phone ban earlier this week. More information on that vote HERE.