Arizona once again ranks lowest in highway safety laws; state officials push back – Cronkite News

A national report card has ranked Arizona among the worst states – again – for its lack of traffic safety laws. But a state official pushed back, saying the report overlooks Arizona’s aggressive enforcement of its traffic laws, making it a safe state for drivers. (File photo by Sierra Alvarez/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON — Arizona again ranked near the bottom of states on a national road safety laws report card, earning a “dangerous” rating as a state with just five of 16 recommended laws and no enforcement. primary for seat belts.

It was at least the 10th consecutive year that Arizona ranked near the bottom in the annual Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety report.

But a state highway official said the report continued to ignore key information about traffic safety in the state, focusing on existing laws instead of the state’s aggressive enforcement of those policies. ‘Arizona.

“All they like to do is watch the laws. Laws are good to have, but enforcement is what makes laws work,” said Alberto Gutier, Director of the Governor’s Office of Traffic Safety.

He pointed to new enforcement data from the distracted driving law which came into force on January 1, 2021, which allows police to issue fines to motorists caught holding and using their device. moving at the wheel. Police issued around 12,000 citations for distracted driving in 2021, Gutier said Tuesday.

This is the 19th year that the advocacy group has released its report, Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws.

The director of the governor’s office of traffic safety said Arizona’s strict enforcement of its traffic safety laws more than makes up for what some critics see as a lack of laws. In this 2014 file photo, an airman trains a radar gun on airbase traffic in Japan. (Photo by Naoto Anazawa/US Air Force)

The latest report, released on Tuesday, rates states based on how many road safety laws they have among a list of 16 recommended policies. They range from drunk driving laws to motorcycle helmet requirements, from graduated teenage driver’s licenses to primary enforcement of seat belt laws, among others.

Report states are ordered from top to bottom in green, yellow, or red. Arizona was one of 11 states to finish in the red category, edging out only Wyoming, Missouri and Montana, which each had four or fewer recommended laws. Eight states and the District of Columbia were rated green and 31 were in the yellow category.

Arizona has received credit since 2020 for the distracted driving law, which passed in 2019, although enforcement only began last year. Oro Valley Police Lt. Carmen Trevizo, who helped release the safety report on Tuesday, said distracted driving is one of two major issues that often cause serious injury or death on roads.

“While fatalities are the worst-case scenario, the effects of a serious collision from something as stupid as being on your phone can also devastate someone’s life,” Trevizo said in an interview. after the publication of the report.

But Arizona didn’t get credit for a law banning cellphone use by novice drivers because it only allows secondary, not primary, application. A primary enforcement law allows police to stop a vehicle for an alleged violation of the law, while secondary enforcement only applies to offenses discovered after a driver has been pulled over for an offense different.

Gutier said secondary laws shouldn’t be dismissed so easily, using state seat belt laws as an example.

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“We have between 88 and 90 percent seat belt usage in Arizona with the secondary right,” he said. “We have more people wearing seat belts than in states with primary law.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 2019 indicates that Arizona had 90.6% seat belt usage, which is higher than 16 states that have primary seat belt enforcement law. and 14 states with secondary implementing legislation.

Trevizo said the other major traffic problem is driving under the influence. While she doesn’t have specific numbers, she said she has noticed, anecdotally, more crashes involving “polydrug use”, with marijuana being the most commonly involved drug, since the Arizona allowed the recreational use of marijuana last year.

Again, Gutier highlighted law enforcement, noting that DUI drug arrests increased from 7,123 in 2019 to 8,843 in 2021.

The report does not include drug laws in its ranking, but it does credit Arizona with three significant impaired driving laws, covering ignition interlocks, child endangerment and open alcohol containers in the vehicles.

Gutier said Arizona has other impaired driving laws that put the state ahead of others, including the nation’s first DUI phlebotomy program and an electronic search warrant system that allows officers to search. obtain a search warrant within 10 minutes of requesting it and draw blood from the scene. drunk driving suspects.

“It’s okay to brag about your condition when you know you’re doing the right thing,” he said.

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