Texting and driving banned in Arizona starting Jan. 1

With the new year comes a new law: using your cell phone while driving will be illegal in Arizona starting Jan. 1.

You can use a Bluetooth device, but it must be hands-free.

If you're using navigation, you cannot hold your phone or smart device in your hand. The only reason to grab your phone is in an emergency.

"This bill will change behavior so that people won't be on their phone, so they won't be texting and change behavior and allow law enforcement latitude to be instructive. The objective here is to not write tickets, it's to save lives," stated Gov. Doug Ducey back in April 2019.

The law bans the use of any type of electronic handheld device while driving, however, a driver can use their cellphone to report any illegal activity or to call for help. A driver can also use their cellphone while parked or at a red light.

Chart describing what is and isn't against the law when it comes to using electronic devices. (Arizona Dept. of Public Safety)

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, you will be allowed to:

  1. To engage and disengage a function on the device such as GPS route start and answering or ending a call.
  2. Talk on the portable wireless communication device with an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on the wrist to conduct a voice-based communication.
  3. Use a device for navigation of the vehicle.
  4. Use a device in an emergency situation to summon help or report a crime. 

Items that will be against the law, while driving:

  1. Hold or support a device with your body. This includes, but is not limited to, in your hands and perched on your shoulder.
  2. Read, write, or send a message via any portable wireless communication device.
  3. Scroll through social media, watch videos, record videos, or any other use of the device that causes a distraction and requires use of your body.

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.

DPS officials stated, "There are exceptions to the law, including emergency responders, people in an emergency situation or alerting first responders to an emergency situation or crime. Additionally, the law does not apply to radios, citizen band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radios, subscription-based emergency communication devices, prescribed medical devices, amateur or ham radio devices, or in-vehicle security, navigation or remote diagnostics systems."

MORE: How to use the 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' feature on Apple devices and on Android devices

Personal injury attorney and police statements:

"It makes sense to pass a law like this if you look at how accidents happen when you are using a cell phone," said Marc Lamber, a personal injury attorney with Fennemore Craig.

Lamber represents victims and families who have been impacted by this kind of distracted driving and says it's about time the hands-free law will go into effect.

"Once someone makes a mistake by using a cell phone and causing an accident, you can't unring that bell.. it's like a pebble dropping in a pond. It has so far reaching effects on the family, on the person, on your life."

"For a first offense it is a civil fine. It is $75 to $149, and then for every subsequent offense, it's $150 to $250, he said.

With New Year's celebrations, Sgt. Maggie Cox of the Phoenix Police Dept. says, "An interesting fact is that a distracted driver is six times more dangerous than an impaired driver, so along with our messages about not to drive impaired, let's not drive distracted."

Police began enforcing the law on Jan. 1. 

The Phoenix Police Dept. received a large grant that will help them enforce the new law.

House Bill 2318:
Texting while driving; prohibition; enforcement
apps.azleg.gov/BillStatus/BillOverview/71430

Senate Bill 1141:
Distracted driving
apps.azleg.gov/BillStatus/BillOverview/71689

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