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Arizona traffic laws have recently come under scrutiny after the recent fatal accident in which a self-driving Uber car struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg earlier this month. In the investigation that followed, it was revealed that Uber had been struggling to operate its autonomous vehicles safely and had been warned by engineers that the system wasn’t ready for road testing.
Uber has settled with the woman’s family for an undisclosed amount, and Uber suspended operations of its self-driving vehicles. With such high-profile cases calling attention to the dangers of public highways in Arizona, however, state legislators have now signed bills which will strengthen penalties for common traffic violations. Is this too little, too late?
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) approved the new laws this week, which take effect later this summer. The most significant change comes to the state’s penalties for drunk driving. Being caught driving under the influence now carries the penalties of a felony record for life, up to 18 months in an Arizona state prison, and the loss of one’s license for a year. After that year, drunk drivers will have to install an ignition interlock, a device which requires drivers to provide an alcohol-free breath sample before it allows the vehicle to start and can even require random samples after the vehicle has started.
The other new Arizona traffic law seeks to crack down on wrong-way drivers. Now, any driver caught going the wrong way on a limited access highway will be hit with a steep $500 fine. Following the fine, drivers will have to attend a state-approved traffic survival school program. While attending the program, wrong-way drivers are essentially on probation, with any additional moving violations in the two years following their wrong way offense resulting in a three-month loss of license. Those new penalties come after the state installed cameras last year on interstate 17 in Phoenix designed to catch wrong way drivers. Is wrong way driving really that big of a problem in Arizona?