Penalties for a new set of laws for wrongfully using your cellphone while driving became effective on Jan. 1. The laws were actually adopted in 2019, but until recently, law enforcement officers had been issuing warnings.
These new laws had solid support. House Bill 2318 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 44 to 16 and the State Senate by a vote of 20 to 9. Gov. Doug Ducey signed the legislation into law on April 22, 2019. It became A.R.S. § 28-914.
Driving while using a portable wireless communication device is prohibited if the person either holds it or supports it with any part of their body. There is an exception for earpieces, headphones, or a device worn on your wrist.
Reading something on your phone or texting while driving are also prohibited. This part of the law makes an exception if you are using a navigation system.
There is an exception to both parts of the law if you are driving and use your phone either to report illegal activity or to summon help. In addition, for obvious reasons, this new law does not prohibit law enforcement personnel or other emergency vehicles from communicating with portable devices.
None of the offenses are considered moving violations, which means no points will be assessed against someone’s driver’s license. However, that also means there is no opportunity to attend a defensive driving school so that a finding of responsible will not be reported to the MVD.
In justice courts in Maricopa County, the presumed financial sanction for a finding of responsible, for the first offense, is $181.50. After a finding of responsible is reported to the MVD, they will order the driver to attend Traffic Survival School. There is also a mandatory 90-day driver’s license suspension or restriction if the driver’s actions resulted in a serious physical injury.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving killed 2,841 people in 2018. Of those, 1,730 were drivers, 605 were passengers, 400 were pedestrians and 77 were bicyclists.
People often need to communicate with another while they are driving. Everyone understands that. But please pull over before you touch your phone. Stay safe.
Judge Gerald Williams is the justice of the peace for the North Valley Justice Court. His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.