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Understanding Arizona’s Distracted Driving Laws

Posted on September 26, 2022 in

Distracted driving has become a growing problem due to technology. From smartphones to infotainment systems built right into a vehicle’s dash, many things can distract today’s drivers – and contribute to car accidents. Arizona lawmakers have addressed distracted driving with a new statewide law against cell phone use behind the wheel. Prohibiting cell phone use while driving tackles the most common cause of distracted driving accidents.

Arizona’s Hands-Off Law

In 2020, 3,142 deaths were reported in accidents involving distracted drivers. Cell phones are one of the top reasons for these collisions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when driving 55 miles per hour, looking at a text message is similar to driving the length of a football field while blindfolded. It only takes a few seconds to cause a distracted driving accident.

Arizona law bans talking and texting on a cell phone while driving unless the device is hands-free. Using a handheld electronic device while driving can result in a traffic citation. This includes not only cell phones, but tablets, iPods, gaming devices and other stand-alone electronic devices, as well. This law applies to all drivers, regardless of age. It was passed in April 2020 but did not go into effect until January 1, 2021.

The details of Arizona’s distracted driving law include a ban on holding or supporting any electronic device with your body. This includes but is not limited to the hands. Holding a phone up to your ear or pinching it between your ear and shoulder can also result in a ticket. Using the device in any way is against the law, including to talk, text, e-mail, scroll through social media, watch videos and take pictures. 

There are some exceptions to Arizona’s hands-off law. For example, it is legal to use a device while stopped at a traffic light. In an emergency, a driver can use a handheld device to summon assistance or report a crime. Drivers are also allowed to touch devices to use the GPS or answer or end a call. Otherwise, a driver must use hands-free mode, such as Bluetooth with an earpiece to communicate while driving.

Consequences of Distracted Driving in Arizona

If a driver is caught by law enforcement using a handheld device while driving – even just holding the device – it can result in a fine between $75 and $149 for a first offense and $150 to $250 for a second or subsequent violation. According to the Phoenix Police Department, law enforcement officers issued 984 citations in the first six months that the law was in effect. Other potential penalties for breaking Arizona’s distracted driving laws include:

  • Up to six months in jail if distracted driving causes an accident with serious injury or death
  • A fine of up to $2,500 for causing a serious accident
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation 
  • Increased car insurance costs
  • Civil liability for the crash

Civil liability means that the at-fault driver is responsible for paying for victims’ medical bills, property repairs, lost wages and other losses. If a driver was distracted by something other than a cell phone, he or she can still face penalties under Arizona’s laws against reckless driving. Section 28-693 of the Arizona Revised Statutes prohibits operating a vehicle in a way that demonstrates a reckless disregard for the safety of other people or property. This crime is a class 2 misdemeanor that can be enhanced if reckless driving causes a car accident. 

What to Do After an Accident Involving a Distracted Driver

If you get into a car accident with a driver you suspect of distracted driving, call the police to report the crash immediately. The driver may receive a citation for cell phone use or reckless driving that you can use during your car insurance claim later. Go to a hospital to treat any injuries. Then, call your car insurance company to report the crash. Before accepting an insurance settlement, contact an attorney for advice. A car accident lawyer in Phoenix can help you receive the amount of compensation that you deserve from a distracted driver.