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Guest opinion

Cunningham: Texting while driving will now get you pulled over

At this week's mayor and City Council meeting, my colleagues and I voted to make texting while driving a primary offense. Six months ago, a new ordinance came into effect making it a secondary offense, meaning that you could only be cited if there was an accident or another violation.

At the time my colleagues and I passed the ordinance, I was worried that as a secondary offense, it would be difficult to enforce. That's why when it was passed back in March, I asked that my colleagues and I take a look at it again after it had been on the books for six months.

The stats came back from the Police Department: since May, only 44 people were cited, and another 18 were given written warnings. As much as we'd all like to think that maybe it's because people are being responsible, the word from the police was that, as a secondary offense, they couldn't pull over most of the people they saw texting and driving.

Both the city manager and the police chief recommended elevating the law to a primary offense, meaning you can be pulled over and cited for using your cell phone in the car without any other violation. My colleagues Richard Fimbres and Regina Romero had valid worries about possible racial profiling and the effect on less well-off drivers. We asked that the police come back with an ethnic breakdown of who was being pulled over, and we reduced the fine to $50 for a first offense.

At the meeting, I admitted that I haven't always been responsible with cell phone use while driving. We all need to clean up our act behind the wheel and I hope making this change in the law will send that message

Paul Cunningham represents Ward 2 on the Tucson City Council.

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