Recent history of “Hands Free” in Arizona Prior to the signing of HB 2318 into law, the State of Arizona left it up to the counties to choose whether to allow texting and driving in their jurisdictions. Moreover, municipalities (cities, towns, etc.) were able to opt out of the hands free restrictions. This means that rules could be different inside a town or on the highway outside a town. For example, Coconino County had a county wide ban on talking on the phone while not hands free and drivers could and have been cited for it. Ironically in Flagstaff, AZ (the largest town in Coconino County) chose to opt out of the hands free requirements set by Coconino County. This left a lot of confusion for many drivers in the larger cities in Arizona including Flagstaff, Tucson, and Phoenix metropolitan areas where the bans were most commonly enforced by law enforcement. HB 2318 House Bill 2318 was signed into law by Republican Governor Doug Ducey on April 22, 2019. The law was said to take emergency effect meaning that cops can provide a warning for this citation immediately. However, fines are not permitted by law enforcement until January 1, 2021. The new law, while not codified in Arizona Revised Statutes as of the date of this writing, is supposed to ban texting and other electronic communications while driving. The bill is probably more aptly named, "The hands-free driving in Arizona." Individuals who are seen texting, checking social media, sending or receiving photos, holding their phone while answering calls, watching videos or engaging in any touching or swiping or even having a handheld electronic device on your lap can result in a citation. The Reason HB 2318 Was Signed into Law There have been an increasing number of driving accidents due to folks admitting that they have been texting, checking social media or otherwise while driving. Certain studies have shown that using a handheld device such as a cell phone while driving is just as, if not more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration distracted driving resulted in 3,166 deaths in the United States in 2017. As highway deaths increase or remain in the thousands or until self-driving cars take the highway by storm, the number of deaths is aimed to be reduced by this bill. Current Enforcement and Enforcement in the Future As stated above, until January 1, 2021 law enforcement cannot enforce this statute by anything other than writing warnings unless there is a city or county ordinance already in effect. However, be aware that other laws for banning texting and driving may already be in effect in your city or county and can already be enforced. Once the law goes into full force and effect on January 1, 2021 fines will be administered in a graduated scale against drivers.
For Permittees (Teenagers without their driver’s license but with their permit), they cannot use their mobile device while driving for any reason except an emergency where stopping the motor vehicle is impossible or will create an additional safety hazard. For a person who is under the age of 18 but above the age of 16 and hold’s their class G(raduated) Driver’s License they may not use their mobile device while driving for any reason except: 1) during an emergency situation in which stopping the vehicle is impossible or will create an additional safety hazard or when using an audible turn-by-turn navigation system under specified conditions. Violators of this section face the following penalties:
1) For the first violation, a maximum civil fine of $75 and an additional Driver’s restriction for 30 days
2) For a second violation, a maximum civil fine of $100 and extension of the Driver’s restriction for 60 days
3) For the third or subsequent violation, a maximum civil penalty of $100 and the suspension of the licensee’s driving privileges for 30 days (A.R.S. §28-3174).
For those over the age of 18, the penalties for texting and driving will as follows:
1) For a first offense, at least a $75 fine, but not more than $149 fine
2) For a subsequent violation at least a $150 fine, but not more than $250 fine.
For people of all ages:
If an accident occurs because of texting and driving which results in physical injury or death, then the following penalties can be imposed:
1) A criminal charge of a class 1 misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months in jail, a $2500 fine and surcharge (tax) of that fine).
2) Attending and successfully completing Traffic Survival School (TSS)
3) Reporting the conviction for a violation to Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT)
4) Suspension of driving privileges if ordered by the court,
5) Performing community restitution if ordered by the court,
6) Paying restitution of not more than $100,000 if ordered by the court. What is Excluded from the Ban? According to the proposed legislation, the following types of usage of a portable electronic device will be allowed and thus excluded from regulation:
1) Sending voice-based communications by use of an integrated car microphone (through the radio via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, etc.) or by a wrist-based microphone (a smartwatch)
2) Using a portable device for navigation of a motor vehicle
3) Using a Global Positioning System (GPS) to navigate the vehicle
4) Obtaining motor vehicle information or information related to driving a motor vehicle (most often this suggests pulling up your insurance card if an officer requests it).
Additionally, certain groups of people will be excluded mostly based upon their jobs. The excluded parties include the following:
1) Operator of an authorized emergency, law enforcement or probation vehicle while acting in an official capacity
2) A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) operator while operating a radio
3) An operator of a two-way radio or private land mobile radio system while in performance and scope of the operator’s work-related duties and who is operating a fleet vehicle or possesses a commercial driver’s license (Truck drivers, construction workers, surveyors, etc. working in their official capacity).
4) A person who is summoning emergency help or to report illegal activity. Or using the equipment to relay an operators occupational duties between operator and dispatcher or digital network or software application service (police officers, medical personnel, fire fighters, etc.). How can Law Enforcement Personnel tell if I am Distracted Driving? Many people are not as good of drivers while they are distracted as they think. Deviated attention between a handheld device and the road can cause weaving, decreased response time in braking, etc. If law enforcement personnel believe you were using your phone because they see you using it, see a phone in your lap or next to your ear they can fine you. In future, there is technology being developed to ascertain what type of apps you were using and for how long to back the Officer’s claim. This will probably open a whole new raid into privacy laws, but only time will tell (no State as of this writing currently allows Textalyzer technology). As of now the law specifically actually blocks the use of a Textalyzer. However certain States are looking at potentially changing this law.