Nearly 500 warnings issued to drivers since cell phone ban signed into law

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The statewide law that bans texting while driving and holding a handheld cellphone has been in effect for about three weeks, and it appears many Arizona drivers have yet to change their ways behind the wheel.

Drivers seem to be taking advantage of a "breaking-in" period, while DPS troopers have pulled over hundreds of drivers who were caught holding a cell phone while driving, and issuing only warnings for now. Since April 22, the day the law went into effect, DPS troopers have issued just under 500 warnings. Real tickets will be issued in 2021.

So far, drivers said they don't feel like the new law has had any effect, and drivers might not pay attention to it for the next two years.

Silly," said Mark Megehee. "It oughta go into effect immediately. It's common sense."

"I feel like they should be handing out tickets," said Shania McShan. "Nobody is going to take it seriously if it's just a warning now."

According to DPS, troopers handed out the most warnings on I-10, the Loop 202, and the Loop 101. Warnings don't cost anything, but innocent lives are at stake.

Salt River officer Clayton Townsend, who was killed in January by a driver who was texting. The accused driver, since identified as 41-year-old Jerry Sanstead, is out on bail. DPS is preparing to file charges, including manslaughter, against him. In 2013, DPS Trooper Timothy Huffman was killed, when his patrol car was hit by a tanker truck. The crash was caught on camera, and the driver is serving a six years prison sentence.

"It's common sense not to text on your phone or have your phone in your hand," said Sennaman Orange.

Starting 2021, drivers breaking the hands-free law will be fined between $75 and $149 for a first violation, and between $150 and $250 for each following violation.