PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The new year brings a new element to a law meant to deal with distracted driving in Arizona. While the law is not new – Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law in April 2019 – it now has some teeth.
When the law first went into effect, officers were able to issue warnings but not citations. The grace period gave drivers a chance to learn the new rule of the road. As of Friday, Jan. 1, that nearly two-year grace period is over, and officers can start writing citations. The fine for a first violation is between $75 and $149. Tickets for offenses after that can cost you at least $150 and up to $250.
While ARS § 28-914 makes Arizona a hands-free state, it does not entirely ban the use of devices for those behind the wheel. You can use your device in hands-free mode to voice text while you’re stopped at a traffic light or parked. You also can use your phone to report an emergency. Devices with interfaces that are built into your car also are OK to use.
Under ARS § 28-914, distracted driving is a primary offense, which means an officer can pull you over if they see a mobile device in your hand while you’re driving.
“Before, the officers were limited to looking at [results of] distracted driving – weaving, or something of that nature,” explained Jerry Worsham, an attorney with The Cavanagh Law Firm. “Now they can just pull you over, and it’s a serious violation – just for holding a handheld device.”
While officers can pull you over and cite you for distracted driving, Worsham says they cannot confiscate your phone.
Although hands-free use of mobile devices is not technically illegal, the Department of Public Safety and law enforcement agencies throughout the state encourage drivers to eschew the use of all devices and focus solely on the road and traffic around them.
“There’s no good reason to text and drive,” John Halikowski, the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, said earlier this week.
There has been a push for a law to combat distracted driving in Arizona for years. When Ducey signed it, our state was one of a handful that did not have such a law.