PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The grace period on Arizona's distracted driving law will end on New Year's Day.

The law prohibits drivers from using and holding a phone or device, writing or reading text messages, watching, recording, or broadcasting video while driving or operating your car.

The law, passed in the spring of 2019, after Arizona was one of the US's only states not to have a distracted driving law. When the law passed, officers were able to issue warnings, but the grace period on citations ends this Friday on January 1, 2021.

"Think of the consequences now instead of after. We’ve seen recently where Officer Clayton Townsend was hit and killed by a texting driver. We had a trooper in District 4 (Yuma area) who was hit and killed by a distracted driver. So in a way, you can say it’s personal for us because we have seen the devastating effects." says Arizona Department of Public Safety Sergeant Kameron Lee.

Trooper Townsend was conducting a traffic stop on northbound Loop 101 near McDowell Road when another car hit him. DPS said the driver of that car, Jerry Sanstead, admitted to investigators that he was texting at the time of the crash in January 2019.

You can still use hands-free voice to text, using your device while stopped at a traffic light, and using a phone to report an emergency. However, DPS is still encouraging you to not use your phone while on the road.

The first violation is between $75 and $149, and subsequent offenses can reach as high as $250. As the Arizona Department of Transportation said in their press release, "that's an expensive - and dangerous - text message."

“There’s no good reason to text and drive,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “Plenty of people think they’re excellent drivers, and they can multitask behind the wheel. They’re all wrong. Frankly, people become dangerous drivers when they shift their attention from the road ahead to the tiny screen on their phone. Distracted driving must stop.”

 

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