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Roundtable discusses hands-free phone law

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Arizona is one of the few states that does not have a statewide ban on cell phone use and texting by motorists. Yet, there are cities and counties — including Sedona — that ban this practice.Photo illustration Jordan Reece/Larson Newspapers

That’s where problems can arise, officials have said. When motorists, especially visitors to the state, drive through Arizona, in some areas it’s legal and others it’s not.


On Dec. 14, more than 20 members of the city of Sedona staff and council members as well as council members from Cottonwood, Jerome, Camp Verde and Clarkdale met in Sedona City Hall. There, they talked on a variety of issues facing the 2017 state legislature with state Reps. Bob Thorpe [R] and Brenda Barton [R] as well as state Sen. Sylvia Allen [R]. All three represent Legislative District 6, which includes the Verde Valley.

“I thought the event was a tremendous success,” Sedona City Attorney Robert Pickels said the next day of gathering, which he initiated. “We think that it was the first of its kind here in Sedona and we hope to replicate it every year in advance of the legislative session. It gave Sedona and the Verde Valley an opportunity to strengthen our collective voice on legislative issues. It also allowed us to become more familiar with our legislative delegation and understand what issues are most important to them.”

One of the topics that was discussed was adding Arizona to the long list of states that ban cell phone use for drivers.

Sedona Vice Mayor John Martinez is the one who asked that the item be placed on the agenda for discussion, saying that it was time Arizona became a hands-free state.
“Once you cross the Colorado River, it’s hands-free — the whole state knows that,” he said. “In California, Oregon, Washington and I think even Nevada [Note: It does], that’s the trend. And I think the state of Arizona needs to be a leader as we move forward. Safety is the main thing. Right now, we need direction from our leadership.”

To that, Thorpe said, “In my discussions with law enforcement, in regard to texting, it comes down to the burden of proof if they were, in fact, texting. But it’s certainly something to consider.”
Barton and Allen said they understand the frustrations some cities have as well as those of the motorists who are dealing with different laws in Arizona depending on where you are.

“The problem is, how can everyone who’s driving from here to there know what your law is in your city, even here in Sedona?” Allen asked. “Part of your city is in Coconino County and the other half is in Yavapai County. That may not be the best example but if you start doing that in Maricopa, you don’t know the laws from one jurisdiction to the next unless you see signs.”

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