Arizona’s New Cellphone Law: Texting & Handheld Calls
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By this spring, 47 states had already banned handheld calls and texting while driving. And in April (2019), Arizona joined the club—making it State 48 once again. Montana and Missouri are the remaining two that have yet to follow the majority. Arizona’s new cellphone laws are strict. If you haven’t already heard, here are the details on what they mean for you if you’re caught on a call or texting while driving in Arizona.
What is distracted driving?
The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that around 40,000 people lost their lives to car crashes in 2018. This number continues to decrease very slowly—about 1-2% per year—but it’s still staggeringly high. 8% (or 3,200) of those vehicle deaths involved distraction while driving.
So what does it mean to be distracted while driving? Experts break distracted driving down into 3 categories:
- Manual: distractions that involve removing your hands from the wheel.
- Visual: distractions that involve taking your eyes off the road.
- Cognitive: distractions that involve taking your mind off the act of driving.
The use of a cellphone while driving hits all three categories, which is why it’s so dangerous—fatally so.
What are the Arizona cellphone Laws?
Hands-free Arizona has been a topic of discussion for several years, but it wasn’t until April 22, 2019, that House Bill 2318 was signed into law, making cellphone use while operating a moving vehicle a primary offense across all of Arizona. Up until that point, 27 different municipalities had various rules and regulations regarding the use of cellphones while driving, which made enforcement tricky and confusing for all involved.
What does the new law prohibit?
- Holding or supporting (with any part of the body) a wireless device while driving
- Writing or reading any text-based communication while driving
- Watching, recording, or broadcasting video while driving
What use is permitted under the new law?
- Hands-free options including Bluetooth, an earpiece or voice-to-text. Once your hand touches the device, however, it’s considered illegal.
- Stopped at a traffic light. Drivers are still permitted to use their devices at traffic lights but must go hands-free once the vehicle is in motion.
- Report an emergency. If you observe a crash or another roadway emergency, you are permitted to use your cellphone.
When does it go into effect?
Here’s the interesting part; the bill took effect immediately, but Governor Doug Ducey, who signed the bill into law, added a stipulation that penalties would not be enforced until January 1, 2021. That means until then, you can be pulled over for breaking the hands-free law, but you will only be given a stern warning.
Once civil penalties go into effect, however, a first-time citation holds a $75-$149 fine, and a repeat offense carries a $150-$250 fine. If a driver causes an accident that results in bodily injury or death, criminal penalties are applied.
A few facts and figures about distracted driving
- States that passed hands-free laws saw a 16% reduction in vehicle fatalities.
- Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times.
- People who drive and use their cellphones are as bad on the road as drunk drivers.
- 86% of Arizona voters support the hands-free legislation that was passed in April.
Traffic lawyer in Chandler, AZ
If you are facing any traffic offense and are in need of legal counsel, let Todd Coolidge handle your case. With over two decades of experience as a criminal defense attorney in Arizona, he has the knowledge and track record you want in a lawyer. Schedule your free consultation today!