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Tempe Has Issued More Than 700 Tickets Under New Texting-While-Driving Law

In the eight months since Tempe has tightened restrictions on cellphone use while driving, residents have been issued quadruple the number of tickets compared to when it was just a secondary offense.

Since March 1, Tempe has considered texting while driving a primary offense, meaning drivers can get pulled over solely for that reason. As of Nov. 15, the city had issued more than 700 citations under the new ordinance. 

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a similar bill into law, banning texting while driving statewide. But drivers can’t be ticketed under the state law until 2021.

In Tempe, Sgt. Steven Carbajal says while the new ordinance makes it easier to pull people over, the issue is out of control.

“I think it happens across all demographics and I think that’s really the issue, right? That’s why it’s so widespread. It’s unfortunate, but unless somebody has a negative experience with that, I don’t feel like that behavior is going to change,” said Carbajal. 

TaiAnna Lee, public information officer for Tempe, said it’s hard to tell yet if the ordinance has improved safety.

“I think that sometimes there’s a misconception that we’re doing this because we want to raise revenue but ideally we would not want to give out any tickets and you know just have safer streets," said Lee.

She said the average ticket is $150. Based on that figure, the city would have collected over $100,000 from the tickets so far.

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Madeline Nelson is completing her last year of college at Arizona State University through the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She previously attended the University of Arizona until she interned at the state capitol with Arizona Capitol Television. There, she learned of ASU’s Broadcast Journalism school in Phoenix and decided to transfer.Nelson is originally from Minnesota and hopes to continue to travel while working as a newscast producer or reporter.