When you get in your car in Arizona, where is your phone? Is it in a bag beside you? Attached to your dash? In the passenger seat or cup holder? Is it off or out of your reach, or put on silent with an auto message that you can’t answer because you’re driving?
There are many ways to be distracted while driving. Distraction isn’t new, but phones have been shown to play a stronger role than other distractions, such as music, conversation with passengers, disciplining children, or eating/drinking.
Distracted Driving in Arizona Finally Getting Attention
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,166 people were killed due to distracted driving in 2017. Several states, including Arizona, have gotten the message that it is time to pay attention. New laws are being added to the books frequently.
In Arizona, the recent law passed in April 2019 involves the use of handheld cellphones while driving, HB 2318. The law makes talking or texting on a handheld cellphone while driving illegal in the state.
The law was a long time coming and took twelve years of consideration before it was finally passed. Other states have found the laws to be effective, reducing accidents by an average of 16% in two years.
Although the law is effective immediately, it won’t be fully enforceable for over a year. Starting in January 2021 fines for using a cellphone without a hands-free option will be between $75-149 for a first offense and $150-250 for future offenses.
What Activities Are Included in the New Law?
Most people who have cell phones don’t just make calls and text. They use navigational systems, watch live television, listen to podcasts and more. There are also highly distracting devices that technically aren’t phones at all. Similar devices are covered by the law as a “stand-alone electronic device” that has stored audio or video.
What’s most notable about the law is that it prohibits the driver to hold or support their device in any way. This goes beyond holding it with their hands. They can’t support it with any part of their body. Keeping a phone in a lap, or even a pocket might be argued as “supporting” the device, although it may be hard for a police officer to notice a phone being used in this way.
Exceptions to the Law
It seems that nearly every rule has exceptions, and the new cell phone distraction law has its share. Some of these include
- “Smart” watches that use voice communication attached to the wrist to communicate.
- Built-in vehicle interfaces that allow for hands-free operations
- Using devices with earpieces or headphones that involves no more interaction than pressing a button.
- Listening to texts that are translated to voice by a hands-free system
- Using a phone’s map or GPS in hands-free mode.
- Using the phone in an emergency to summon help
- Parked vehicles or those waiting for a train at a railroad crossing are permitted to use their phones, even without a hands-free system in place. This does not apply to someone being stuck in traffic or at standard stop signs or stoplights.
A Hard-Won Victory For Victims of Distractive Driving Accidents
There are a lot of people, including the family of police officer Clayton Townsend of Salt River, AZ who are pleased to see the cell phone ban passed, and who may even want to see it go further. This past January, Officer Townsend was killed by a driver suspected of being distracted. The officer’s mother pushed for the law.
With the law’s passing, Arizona is 48th in the nation to ban texting, and the 18th state to ban handheld phone use while driving. Advocates for the law are pushing for Arizonians to take the law seriously as soon as possible, even before it is technically enforceable.
Fighting For a Distracted Driving Related Injury
At Petersen Johnson, we are committed to our clients who have been injured in a distracted driving-related accident or have lost a loved one. When people are hurt and lives are lost due to the misuse of cell phones and other electronic devices, it becomes far more than an inconvenience of a traffic violation. Distracted driving-related injuries change lives forever, and those who can’t be bothered to set their phones aside for the time it takes to get from point A to point B need to be held accountable for the injuries they cause.
There are many possible injuries that may be sustained from pedestrian or motorcycle injuries to those sustained by persons in another vehicle. There are initial medical bills, but also there may be additional costs if work is lost, or if a loved one is loft who has helped support the family. It is the civil courts, not criminal or traffic courts that bring justice in these instances.
Personal injury attorneys, like those at Petersen Johnson, can often provide you with the legal support you need to fight back against your injury and the pain it brings to your life. We serve clients throughout the state, including the cities of Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix, Tempe, Avondale, Chandler, Paradise Valley, Glendale, Sun City, and other nearby communities. To learn more, contact Petersen Johnson at 602-904-7624 to set up a free consultation as soon as possible. Getting involved early in the process helps up to build a strong case and gives us the best chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve.