Arizona Bans Cell Phone Use While Driving – Finally
There are few things more annoying and dangerous than a driver paying attention to a cellphone rather than the road or other vehicles. Sadly, it can be deadly. As an accident attorney in Mesa, Arizona I am encouraged by the new law prohibiting cellphone use while driving.
Arizona has finally taken a big step in making her freeways, roads, and streets much safer. Ending a decade of legislative resistance to restrictions on using a cellphone while driving, Arizona drivers may no longer talk or text on a cellphone while driving unless the cellphone is in a hands-free mode.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation into law on April 22, 2019 that enacted a statewide ban on handheld cellphone use while driving. That means only Missouri and Montana have not banned texting while driving. Including Arizona, 17 states now have a blanket ban on handheld cellphone use while driving.
Before the new law was passed, Arizona already had a law prohibiting distracted driving, though it was not specific to cell phone use. Since July 1, 2018 texting while driving was prohibited for new, teenage drivers, but there was no overall handheld cellphone ban for all drivers.
The law should save lives, according to statistics on the governor’s website, which shows that states that have hands-free laws experienced 16% fewer fatalities in traffic incidents. The website also claims that drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.
What The New Law Prohibits
The new law states that in a moving vehicle, the driver is not allowed to:
- Operating a cellphone, including to talk, write, send or read any text-based communication or browse social media sites – unless the driver is in hands-free mode.
- Drivers may not watch any kind of video or record a video.
- Drivers also may not hold or support a mobile device with any part of their body, including their shoulders.
The law applies not just to cellphones, but to any kind of portable wireless communication device or standalone electronic device.
Police officers may issue warnings to drivers right away, and begin issuing citations to drivers breaking the law beginning January 1, 2021.
There Are Exceptions
The new law does not prohibit the following cellphone uses while driving:
- Swiping a phone screen to make or accept a phone call.
- Talking on the phone if using an earpiece, headphone device or device worn on a wrist.
- Using voice-based communication, such as a talk-to-text function.
- Using a GPS system.
- Using a handheld cellphone while stopped at a traffic light or stop light.
- Using a handheld cellphone to call 9-1-1.
Additional exceptions are in the new law for officials who respond to emergencies, and people who are witnessing a crime or in need of emergency help.
The law does not apply to radios, citizen band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radios, subscription-based emergency communication devices, prescribed medical devices, amateur or ham radio devices, or in-vehicle security, navigation or remote diagnostics systems.
Yes, There Will be Fines
Breaking the law will be a primary offense, meaning the police can pull over drivers for this reason alone. For the first violation, a driver will be fined between $75 and $149. For the second and every repeat violation, a driver will be fined between $150 and $250.
Officers who stop drivers for breaking this law cannot take possession of a cellphone or otherwise inspect it.
City Cellphone Laws Are Still Enforceable
Before Arizona enacted the statewide ban, many Arizona cities and towns already banned cellphone use while driving in some form. For example, in the Phoenix metro area:
- El Mirage – prohibits handheld-cellphone use while driving.
- Fountain Hills – prohibits texting while driving.
- Glendale – prohibits handheld-cellphone use while driving.
- Phoenix – prohibits texting while driving.
- Surprise – prohibits handheld-cellphone use while driving.
- Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community – prohibits texting while driving.
- Tempe – prohibits handheld-cellphone use while driving.
In the cities that already ban hand-held cellphone use while driving, they can continue to enforce their city ordinances, and those laws will stay in effect until the state law replaces them on January 1, 2021. And cities and towns can still enact laws that penalize drivers before the new state law takes effect.
Don’t wait until 2021 to start obeying the new law. What the new cellphone law prohibits you should not be doing anyway. Change your behavior now. Discipline yourself to keep your phone out of your hands and wait until it’s safe to use it. Teach your friends, kids, and grandkids to obey the new law right away – it will save someone’s life.
I am a personal injury attorney in Arizona who has seen his share of unfortunate accidents during my many years of practice. Please don’t let using a cell phone lead to a devastating accident for you or your family. If you have questions about the new law or any legal issue, please all me at (480) 833-1113.
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