Distracted Driving Accidents & Laws in Arizona

Distracted driving in Arizona

Overview of Arizona laws that restrict cell phone use and texting and driving while operating a vehicle

The statistics show that distracted driving is a serious problem in Arizona. Fortunately, some people within the state are working hard to put laws in place to fix the problem. In the meantime, there are things you should do if you’re hit by a distracted driver.

Did you know that multitasking is a myth and the brain can’t actually perform two tasks at once?

Did you know that drivers using cell phones have slower reaction times than drivers who are over the legal intoxication limit?

Did you know that, at any given time, 9 percent of all drivers are using their cell phones?

Knowing these statistics, is it any wonder then that 1 in 4 car crashes involve cell phone use at the time of the wreck?

Most people understand that distracted driving is a problem, even students. Nevertheless, Arizona is 1 of only 2 states that doesn’t ban texting for all drivers (though the state does prohibit certain drivers from using cell phones and several cities have enacted their own local laws).

Let’s take a closer look at some distracted driving statistics in Arizona, the measures that have been taken to prevent distracted driving, and what to do if you’re hit by a distracted driver in the Grand Canyon State.

Distracted driving statistics

Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver.

In Arizona, approximately 23.63% of all crashes involve a distracted driver. Here’s how that data breaks down:

Causes of Car Crashes in Arizona (2017)
Type of Distraction Total Percent of Total In Fatal Crashes Percent of Fatal
Not Distracted 190,257 76.37% 655 45.84%
Talking on Hands Free Device 199 0.08% 1 0.07%
Talking on Handheld Device 454 0.18% 3 0.21%
Passenger 944 0.38% 7 0.49%
Other Activity with an Electronic Device 1,416 0.57% 3 0.21%
Manually Operating an Electronic Device 846 0.34% 1 0.07%
Other Inside the Vehicle (eating, drinking, etc.) 3,109 1.25% 8 0.56%
Outside the Vehicle 2,712 1.09% 10 0.70%
Distracted Unknown Reason 13 0.01% 0 0.00%
Unknown 49,173 19.74% 741 51.85%
TOTAL 249,123 100.00% 1,429 100.00%
Source: Arizona Department of Transportation

Common distractions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identifies three main types of distractions:

  1. Visual distractions - something that requires a driver to divert their attention from the road
  2. Manual distractions - something that requires a driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel
  3. Cognitive distractions - something that causes a driver’s mind and focus to wander to something other than the task of driving

Of course, not all driving distractions are caused by cell phone use. Other common sources of distraction include:

  • Adjusting audio and climate controls
  • Lighting or putting out a cigarette
  • Eating food or drinking
  • Styling your hair
  • Managing children or pets

Arizona laws to prevent distracted driving

Arizona doesn’t have any statewide restrictions on texting or cell phone use, with two exceptions:

  1. Novice/teen drivers are banned from using their cell phones during the permit phase and for the first 6 months of the graduated license phase
  2. School bus drivers are banned from using cell phones behind the wheel

Drivers who text in Arizona can technically be cited under the state’s law for driving at a speed that is not “reasonable and prudent,” but few—if any—officers enforce this law.

Several cities and counties (including Tucson, Pima County, Glendale, San Luis, Parker and Oro Valley) have enacted local laws banning the use of handheld wireless devices, while others have enacted laws prohibiting texting and driving (Phoenix and Flagstaff).

The chances of a statewide law addressing distracted driving have increased significantly in 2019, in the wake of Salt River police officer Clayton Townsend's death in a crash caused by a driver who admitted to texting at the time of the accident. State Senator Kate Brophy McGee introduced a handheld cell phone ban for all drivers in response, and a number of similar measures are pending in the House.

How does distracted driving impact liability in a car accident?

When one driver (the “plaintiff”) sues another driver (the “defendant”) for damages caused by a car accident, the plaintiff must generally show that the defendant’s carelessness caused the accident. In the legal world, this carelessness is called “negligence.” In many cases, negligence can be proven by showing that the other driver was using their cell phone immediately before the accident.

Enjuris tip: Read more about fault in Arizona personal injury lawsuits.

What if I get hit by a distracted driver?

Distracted driving can cause a variety of different injuries:

If you get hit by a distracted driver, first make sure you’re out of harm’s way and then take the following steps:

  1. Call the police. The police will conduct a small investigation and write a police report that could help prove liability down the road. The police can include information in their report about any potential evidence of distracted driving (such as any incriminating statements by the distracted driver or an open bag of fast food on the distracted driver’s seat).
  2. Exchange information. Make sure you get the other driver’s name, contact information,  insurance information, license plate, car make and model, and driver’s license number.
  3. Get witness information. This is crucial, because witnesses are notoriously difficult to locate after an accident.
  4. Photograph the scene. Use your phone and take pictures of the cars, injuries, and anything else that might be relevant.
  5. Receive medical attention. Make sure to see your doctor and document your injuries. If you don’t see a doctor soon after the accident, the insurance company will likely question the legitimacy of any eventual injury claims.
  6. Contact your insurance company. Start this process as soon as possible and keep all your documents in one place. It helps to use a post-accident journal and expense worksheet.
  7. Talk to an attorney. Even if you’re not sure about a lawsuit, a lawyer can help you decide how to proceed.

Oftentimes, you won’t know if the other driver in your accident was distracted or not. An experienced lawyer can develop this evidence by obtaining cell phone records, video evidence, and talking to witnesses. Try our free Arizona personal injury law firm directory to find an attorney in your area who is knowledgeable about distracted driving car accidents.

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