You hear about it during every monsoon – Arizona’s ‘Stupid Motorist Law. It has been around for more than 20 years, but how often is it actually enforced? An investigation will find it out.
When monsoon storms roll in, there is a possibility that Tucson roadways can turn into virtual rivers.
“Rapidly moving water is very, very deceptive, and it’s very unpredictable. The power of the water – it never stops moving,” Rural/Metro Battalion Chief John Walka told.
When those normally dry wash crossings fill up, drivers who don’t pay attention to the warnings may end up getting stuck.
“That water has enough power to move that vehicle. Once that vehicle is in motion and you have people in there, that becomes a very dangerous situation,” Walka said.
It makes for a dangerous and potentially costly situation.
A.R.S. 28-910, often referred to as our state’s ‘Stupid Motorist Law’ has been in place since 1995.
“It is an option that we have to charge people, when to go into an area like this, and when they’re charged for a reckless driving offense,” said Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy James Allerton.
The statute is not something that drivers are directly charged with. Instead, a person must commit another violation, such as driving in a reckless manner, before they can be fined under the stupid motorist law. If they are cited, they may end up being responsible for up to $2,000 to pay for the cost of the rescue.
“Reckless manner could include going around the signs, going around the barricades, or perhaps even seeing a sign that says do not enter when flooded, and entering anyway,” Deputy Allerton told.
However, as the investigators discovered, law enforcement agencies rarely end up citing drivers under the ‘Stupid Motorist Law.’
Tucson City Court officials told the Investigators, the number of citations under A.R.S. 28-910 is not something they can directly track.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department also says, it’s not common for them to cite drivers, but it doesn’t mean they’re getting a free pass to violate the law.
“It could not only result in them being charged money, but it could greatly endanger their lives, and the lives of those in the vehicle with them, and our rescue workers,” Deputy Allerton told.
The law is still valuable, in that in may deter drivers from going around barricades despite the lack of ‘Stupid Motorist Law’ citations, first-responders told. Even though, they might not end up having to pay up, if they need to be rescued.
“I think when people hear about it, they’re going to think twice about going through that wash.” Walka said.
Tucson Fire told they typically do not send out bills for rescues. However, they also stressed that safety should be a driver’s top priority when it comes to not crossing flooded washes.