Arizona’s new distracted driving law leads to thousands of citations

Jul 15, 2021, 4:45 AM | Updated: 9:39 am
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — About six months into Arizona’s new distracted driving law, officers throughout the Valley have issued thousands of citations to violators.

The law was passed in April 2020 but enforcement was delayed to educate the public until Jan. 1.

It prohibits motorists from using a handheld device, like a cellphone, while driving.

That means anyone caught texting, talking or even holding a cellphone while operating a vehicle can be fined between $75 and $149 for a first violation and between $150 and $250 for each ensuing violation.

The Phoenix Police Department, the largest in the state, had issued 984 citations through the end of June.

“Our ultimate goal is just compliance,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Andy Williams told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We would prefer that people operate their vehicle safely.”

Williams stressed it’s best to avoid using any device while driving, but if drivers need to use one while they’re behind the wheel, they should make sure it’s in a hands-free mode.

“You just can’t be physically touching it,” he said. “You can’t be looking at the screen while you’re sending a text or reading an email. It’s just not safe to do that.”

The state’s new distracted driving law does allow the use of a device while stopped at a traffic light.

The number of citations issued by Chandler police is not far behind the amount Phoenix officers have issued.

Through the end of May, the Chandler Police Department had issued 710 citations to distracted drivers. That’s more than any other police agency in the East Valley.

Chandler Police Sgt. Jason McClimans credited that to officers diligently enforcing the new law.

He reminded drivers of the devastating consequences that can come out of distracted driving.

“When you take your eyes off the road for even one second, that is a time where a vehicle in front of you can stop, a child can run out in front of the road or a bicyclist can be out in front of the road and you don’t have time to see that,” he said.

The Mesa Police Department has issued 238 citations and warnings to distracted drivers as of Wednesday, while Scottsdale police reported 206 citations as of June 26 and Tempe police had given out 183 citations as of the end of May.

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Arizona’s new distracted driving law leads to thousands of citations