Oro Valley drivers will need to put their phones down while behind the wheel from now on as a new “hands-free” ordinance goes into effect Friday, January 6th, with awareness enforcement starting on Monday, January 9th.

Oro Valley police will start giving out warnings to drivers to educate them about the new ordinance. If you have to use your cell phone while driving, the use of Bluetooth or the speaker on your phone is acceptable, just don’t pick up your phone. Exceptions include calling 911 or speaking to a hospital or physician.

According to the Oro Valley Police website: The Oro Valley Police Department (OVPD) will begin its educational campaign Monday, January 9, 2017. The educational campaign will be motorcycle and patrol officers conducting high visibility traffic stops on drivers seen holding a cellular phone or mobile electronic device (e.g. GPS, gaming device). Drivers will be warned about the violation and receive an educational pamphlet describing the provisions of the new ordinance.

Drivers caught using their phone while driving could face up to a $250 fine. OVPD will be watching for signs of distracted driving such as weaving in traffic and driving below the speed limit.

Red lights are no exception; using your phone at a red light can still earn you a fine.

Tucson and Pima County have texting and driving bans, but they are not as restrictive. There could be confusion about the laws as drivers pass through Tucson, into Pima County, and into Oro Valley.

Within the ordinance, the use of any mobile phone or portable electronic device must be done “without the use of either hand by employing an internal feature of, or an attachment to, the device.” OVPD wants to educate the public about the dangers and hopes the ordinance will encourage drivers to put down the cell phones.

The State of Arizona still lacks a comprehensive texting and driving ban, one of only two states left in the country. Numerous proposed texting and driving bans have gone before the Arizona legislature and have failed.

Of the more than 29,000 collisions reported in Arizona last year, nearly 3,000 were caused by a distracted driver, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

895 people lost their lives on Arizona roads in 2015 and the number for 2016 is expected to be even higher.

The Arizona Department of Transporation (ADOT) blames distracted driving, speeding and impaired driving for the increase in statewide fatalities.

Arizona Legislature…are you listening yet?