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Our View: Arizona needs safe drivers, not driver safety laws

January 25, 2019

A new national report says Arizona is falling behind in creating new driving safety laws and that new laws could have saved about a tenth of those who died on state roads in 2017.

Our question is: What about the other 900 or so who died? What could have saved them?

The right answer is a combination of things. It starts with a driver, of course, who places safety first. It extends to a safe vehicle. Then to safe roads. Along the way, it involves pedestrians and cyclists.

Arizona, by the way, was rated a big fail in the annual Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety survey for its lack of laws. The topics included seat belt enforcement, motorcycle helmets, child passenger safety and youthful driving.

One of the topics was texting and phone use, a specific area that is actually already addressed in Arizona’s distracted driving law. Critics nonetheless say the use of phones for texting needs its own laws.

The Town of Parker just passed a new ordinance banning hand-held phone use while driving. It’s among a growing number of municipalities that have done so.

Laws or no laws, the sad fact is that inattentive driving leads to too many accidents and deaths. Drivers need to understand that the lack of a no-texting law isn’t a green light for playing with a phone.

The national report points out that some 350 lives in Arizona were saved by seat belts and motorcycle helmets. This suggests those people made conscious decisions to put safety first.

Ideally, everyone would do that. Should there be more stringent laws in place to assure they do?

In our view, the emphasis needs to be placed on the driver’s attentiveness. A seat belt won’t help a pedestrian — about a quarter of highway deaths were pedestrians — or a bicyclist.

Given Arizona’s poor roads and the bumpy paths that pass for roads in Lake Havasu City, there’s no excuse for drivers not placing safety first. Combine bad roads and an assumption that other drivers aren’t paying attention and smart drivers know to expect the bad and unexpected.

Arizona doesn’t need a lot more driver safety laws. It needs drivers to drive safely.

We predict Arizona will get more driver safety laws, though, precisely because drivers won’t universally take responsibility for themselves.

— Today’s News-Herald

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