Arizona Bans All Handheld Cell Phone Use While Driving
Phoenix, Arizona—Arizona became the 48th state in the Union to ban the use of handheld cell phones and other portable wireless communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. Governor Doug Ducey signed the bill into law on Monday. Arizona always appears to come late to public safety regulation.
Each year, for 13 years, the Arizona Legislature has failed to pass comprehensive laws banning cell phone usage while driving. Legislator Steve Farley, D-Tucson, was the force behind many of these efforts. The difference in having the bill passed this time is attributed to the tragic death of Officer Clayton Townsend. Mr. Townsend, age 26, was an officer with the Salt River Police Department who was struck and killed while standing beside his patrol car during a routine traffic stop. The motorist who struck him later admitted he was texting at the time. Officer Townsend leaves behind a wife and a 10-month-old daughter.
Officer Townsend’s mother, Toni Townsend, testified before the Arizona State Legislature in support of the bill. The new law makes it illegal for drivers to physically hold or support a cell phone, make or receive calls, write, send or read text messages, e-mails, Instagram messages or Internet data.
Voice communications are permitted if they are made through earpieces or headphones. It is permissible to communicate through a vehicle’s built-in interface system with a minimum of interaction. Text messages may be sent through voice commands. Drivers may continue to use a vehicle’s built-in video system for information about the vehicle or mapping directions.
Officers may issue warnings immediately, while the date for issuing citations begins on January 1, 2021. First offenses carry a $75-149 fine. Second offenses are $150-250. States that already have enacted similar laws have seen an average 16% reduction in traffic fatalities.