Starting January 1, 2021, you can be ticketed in Arizona if you talk or text on a cell phone while driving unless the device is in a hands-free mode. The same law also applies to tablets as well as music and gaming devices It’s the 48th state to ban texting while driving. (Missouri and Montana are the only states left that don’t have laws that restrict texting while driving.)
This law actually passed in April 2019, but drivers didn’t start getting tickets until the beginning of 2021. In the meantime, law enforcement gave over 15,000 warnings to people who were caught on their phones while driving.
What Does This Law Actually Require?
Essentially, you can’t touch your cell phone or other stand-alone electronic device while you’re driving. It has to be in hands-free mode. It can’t be in your hand, cradled between your ear and your shoulder, or supported by any other part of your body.
This means you can’t write or read texts, scroll through social media, watch or record videos, or do anything else with your device that causes a distraction and requires the use of your body.
So, I Can’t Touch My Device At All?
There are a few exceptions. You’re allowed to touch your device to:
- Start or end a call,
- Use a device, like on your GPS, to navigate the vehicle, and
- Respond to an emergency situation, like calling 911.
It’s ok to talk on your phone while wearing an earpiece or headphones or communicate through a smart watch.
What If I’m at a Stoplight?
I called the Phoenix Police Department and the officer said you’re allowed to touch your phone while you’re sitting at a red light. If you’re that person who isn’t paying attention and doesn’t go when the light turns green, you can be ticketed for impeding traffic.
What About a Stop Sign?
According to the police officer, you’re not allowed to pick up your phone while at a stop sign. Their exact words were, “We don’t want you marinating at a stop sign.”
Can I Shoot Video While Driving If I Hit “Record” Before I Start Driving?
Technically, yes, but if you’re shooting a vlog while behind the wheel, I suspect you’re not paying as much attention to the road as you should be. You can still be ticketed for operating your car unsafely.
How Can a Cop Prove I was on my Phone?
It might be their word against yours. Under this law, a police officer cannot confiscate or inspect your device.
How Bad is the Fine If I Get Caught?
For your first violation, it’s a $75 – $149 fine. If you get caught using your device while driving again, it’s a $150 – $250 fine.
Is It Really That Dangerous to Text and Drive?
According to a study from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, texting and driving is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
It’s scary to be driving and see other drivers talking on their phones, or worse, looking down at their lap where they’re texting with both hands. One time I was in the passenger seat of my friend’s car and while they were talking on their phone with one hand, they started writing on a notepad with the other! I told him he wasn’t allowed to do that while I was in his car. (If he needed something jotted down, I was happy to do it for him.)
If you want more information about this new law, visit the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and please put down your phone and keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.