Overview of Arizona laws that restrict cell phone use and texting and driving while operating a vehicle
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|
|Talking on Hands Free Device||199||0.08%||1||0.07%|
|Talking on Handheld Device||454||0.18%||3||0.21%|
|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%|
|Source: Arizona Department of Transportation|
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identifies three main types of distractions:
- Visual distractions - something that requires a driver to divert their attention from the road
- Manual distractions - something that requires a driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel
- 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 distracted driving laws
Arizona enacted its Hands-Off Law in 2021. This law makes it illegal to use a standalone electronic device while driving unless the device is in hands-free mode. This would include phones, tablets, games, and music players.
Previously, 26 Arizona municipalities had local ordinances related to hands-free operation of vehicles but this is the first state law to this effect.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, it’s illegal in Arizona to:
- Hold or support a device with your body, including using your shoulder to perch a phone, or having a device between your legs;
- Read, write, or send a message with any portable wireless device; or
- Scroll social media, watch or record videos, or use a device in any other way that causes distraction or requires use of your body.
A driver is permitted to:
- Engage and disengage a function like GPS on the phone;
- Answer or end a call;
- Talk on the phone with an earbud, headphone, or wrist-worn device for voice communication;
- Use a device for navigation; or
- Use a device in an emergency to call for help or report a crime.
Exceptions to the law include emergency responders or people in an emergency situation, radios, citizen band radio, commercial two-way radios, subscription-based emergency communications, prescribed medical devices, amateur or ham radios, or in-vehicle security or remote diagnostics systems.
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.
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:
- 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).
- 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.
- Get witness information. This is crucial, because witnesses are notoriously difficult to locate after an accident.
- Photograph the scene. Use your phone and take pictures of the cars, injuries, and anything else that might be relevant.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.