Arizona has finally joined 47 other states in making it illegal to text and drive. With the passing of this law, signed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on April 22, 2019, Missouri and Montana are the only states left where it is still allowed. This law not only prohibits texting, but also talking on the phone unless the driver is using a hands-free device.
It is now illegal to:
- Hold a cell phone in any way while driving, with hands or by propping up with shoulder
- Write and read any text-based communication, including emails and messages
- Watch videos
Still allowed under the new law:
- Swiping the screen to make or accept a call, so long as the call is done through a hands-free device
- Use of talk-to-text to send messages
- Using GPS to view directions
- Using a handheld cell phone while stopped at a traffic light
- Emergency use of cell phone to call 911
Even though the above is now in effect, officers currently are only able to issue warnings for violations. They will be able to issue tickets starting January 1, 2021. It will be a primary offense, meaning that officers will be able to pull people over if they observe them using a phone in violation of the law specifications. Fees for a first-time offense will range from $75-$149. Every time after that they will range from $150-$250. It is important to note that, although an officer can pull an individual over for using their cell phone, this law does not legally allow them to view, inspect or confiscate the user’s cell phone.
Overall, this law should be viewed as a huge step towards increased safety on the roads. According to Governor Ducey’s website, states that have hands-free device laws similar to the one Arizona has just enacted experience 16% fewer fatalities in traffic accidents. According to Cronkite News, “a poll in February showed that more than 80% of both Republicans and Democrats supported a statewide cellphone ban.”
This is a big safety and public interest win for our state, and will hopefully lead to more safer roads in Arizona in the long run!