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Don’t Text and Drive: Status of Distracted Driving Laws in Southern Arizona

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Arizona will soon pass a state law banning texting and driving, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal to do so until the law passes. Many local jurisdictions have enacted codes or ordinances to make it illegal not only to text while driving, but to use a phone at all while driving, unless it is being used in hands-free mode.

The Bottom Line: Unless you’re on speakerphone or Bluetooth, it is illegal to talk on your phone or text while operating a vehicle in Tucson, Oro Valley, and Pima County—including when you’re stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic.

The proposed Arizona law applies to texting only.

Here’s a table to summarize some of the local codes and ordinances currently in place, and a rundown on the new Arizona law that is expected to pass.

Jurisdiction

An operator of a vehicle may not…

Fine

City of Tucson

Oro Valley

Use a mobile phone or portable electronic device on a street or highway unless it is specifically designed or configured to allow hands-free use and is used in that manner while operating a motor vehicle.

Use a mobile phone or portable electronic device on a street or highway unless it is specifically designed or configured to allow hands-free use and is used in that manner while operating a motor vehicle.

1st offense: $50
2nd offense: $100
3rd offense: $200
$250 if cause of accident

Pima County

City of Phoenix

Use a mobile phone or portable electronic device on a street or highway unless it is specifically designed or configured to allow hands-free use and is used in that manner while operating a motor vehicle.

Text while vehicle is in motion (does not state illegal even while stopped in traffic).

$100 first time
$250 if use causes an accident

State of Arizona

Text or read, write or send an electronic message while operating a motor   vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.

1st offense:    $25-99
Additional offense: $100-200
Misdemeanor and up to $4000
$250 if cause of serious injury or death

References: Tucson City Code §20-160, Oro Valley Town Code, Article 10-14; Pima County Code, Chapter 10.34; City of Phoenix Code 76.01; SB 1261, proposed law adding A.R.S. §28-913.

Additional points of proposed A.R.S. §28-913:

The law is fairly lenient:

  • The language of the law says “stopped;” it does not appear to be illegal to check a phone at a stop light.
  • To be ticketed/fined for a violation of the law, the officer must have seen or been present to witness the violation, or the violation must be established by other evidence.
  • The following are defenses to a ticket/fine for a violation:
    • Use was with a hands-free device.
    • Use was to navigate using a GPS or navigation system.
    • Use was to report illegal activity, summon emergency help or enter information into a software application that provides information relating to traffic and road conditions to users of the application.
    • Use was to read an electronic message that the person reasonably believes concerns an emergency.
    • Use was to activate a function that plays music.
  • An officer who stops a motor vehicle for an alleged violation may not take possession of or otherwise inspect a portable wireless communication device in the possession of the operator.
  • Arizona MVD cannot consider a conviction for a violation of this section to determine whether the person’s driver license should be suspended or revoked.
  • An insurance company may not consider a violation of this section for the purposes of establishing rates for motor vehicle liability insurance or determining the insurability of the person.
  • An insurer may not cancel or refuse to renew a policy of insurance because of the violation.

Keep in mind that, when in Tucson, Oro Valley, or Pima County, the stricter “no use” rules will still apply.

Also, make sure new drivers know the rules applicable to local and state jurisdictions.  Not only will this help them while driving, but people taking their original driver’s license exam may be tested on the effect of using a cell phone or engaging in other actions that could distract a driver.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact me with questions about this article or any other issue. cmeynard@nullwaterfallattorneys.com

Article Written By: Cassandra Meynard

Litigation

CMeynard@nullWaterfallAttorneys.com