In an effort to make the streets safer for drivers and pedestrians, both Arizona and Tucson have created new traffic laws. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know:
Wrong Way on the Freeway
Because of an increasing number of wrong-way drivers on Arizona freeways, new rules mean that those found driving the wrong way will face a $500 fine and mandatory traffic school. If you’re drunk and driving the wrong way on a freeway, you will face at least one year of license suspension in addition to the other consequences associated with a DUI.
Serious Accidents and Suspended Licenses
“Pam’s Law” was enacted in May, in response to a driver/pedestrian collision that resulted in the death of Pam Hesselbacher, and the serious injury of her two children. The driver was found to have a suspended license and was also underinsured. When the driver was charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony, Pam’s family and legislators worked for legislation that increased penalties. Now, a driver with a suspended license can face up to six months in jail for causing a serious injury or death. The driver also faces further license suspension (180 days for causing injury; up to a year for causing death). Victims can now seek restitution up to $100,000 (previously capped at $10,000).
Tucson’s New Pedestrian Traffic Signals
Arizona now has the dubious distinction of being #1 nationally in pedestrian deaths, and Tucson’s pedestrian fatality rate doesn’t help with those numbers. In an effort to increase safety, Tucson has installed some new traffic signals. If you see a flashing yellow turn arrow, it means, “Proceed with extreme caution”-- pedestrians may be in or entering the intersection, and they have the right of way. If you’re waiting to turn on a green arrow and you suddenly get a red arrow, it means that a pedestrian has triggered the light, and you must wait for the arrow to turn back to yellow or green before you can proceed with caution. There will be some confusion with this new system until we get used to it, but be ready to see some new turn arrow colors.