Distracted driving has been a growing problem throughout the United States for several years now. With a rise in handheld devices, too many motorists are busy talking on the phone, or even texting, when they should be focusing on the road. To combat this, many jurisdictions have put in place distracted driving laws to hopefully cut down and eliminate dangerous behaviors that cause a distraction for drivers. Many studies have shown that distracted driving is in fact more dangerous than even driving under the influence of alcohol.
Since phones are the biggest culprit, they are the focus of a new Arizona law that will be taking effect at the beginning of 2021. Under this law, HB 2318, a driver cannot operate a motor vehicle while holding a wireless device, or while writing or reading text on a device. The only exception is if they are using the device using hands-free functions. HB 2318 was written as a strict law that will make it difficult to defend if you are ticketed for a violation. The wording is that if you are holding or supporting a device, you are in violation. That makes things very straightforward, so that you cannot claim to have been actually using the phone when it was in your hand. If you’re holding it, you get a ticket whether you are actively using the device or not.
The device that you are holding or supporting does not have to be a phone, although phones are definitely the most common when it comes to distracted driving. A device can also be a laptop, a device just for text-messaging, or even a GPS unit. It is essentially anything that can send and receive data and information. Smartwatches are not banned, since they have voice activation for their functions, which makes them safer.
Arizona is one of the last states to put such measures in place to prevent distracted driving. In fact, after passing HB 2318, there are only 2 other states remaining that have no laws to prevent driving while using mobile devices. Only 16 states, which will now include Arizona, have a complete ban on handheld devices. The other states have modified versions of a ban that are not as strict.
The new law is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2021. This is a long period of time from the date of its passing, with the goal of educating the public properly before tickets start getting issued. However, law enforcement officers are now able to pull you over for using a handheld device and issue a warning. With something that is expected to drastically change the behavior of so many drivers, the state wants to make sure that the public and law enforcement are fully prepared before it takes full effect.
As it stands right now, police officers will not be able to confiscate your device if you are pulled over and ticketed for driving while holding it. However, in the future they may be able to use new technology to sense whether your phone is being used at any time, even if they cannot see the phone from the exterior of the car. This means that you could drive past a speed trap, and instead of pulling you over for speeding, they’ll be able to pull you over for swiping on your phone below their line of sight. This technology is currently not legal in Arizona, but it does exist, and some critics are worried that a handheld ban could be a part of a slippery slope towards the use of these technologies that might threaten the privacy of citizens.
Currently there are several municipalities in Arizona that already have some kind of ban on driving with a handheld device. In these places, police officers can continue to issue citations for any violations. However, once January of next year hits, the new state laws will supersede any municipal laws.
The law does allow you to hold your device if you are stopped at a red light. However, this is not advisable, since you may not be properly prepared to start moving once the light changes. At best you may have the cars behind you honking their horns. At worst, a police officer may catch you holding the device while stopped when you should be moving.
Make sure to use a bluetooth enabled device to activate voice command functions. These can also help you text and read communications. Make sure you are familiar with the new law to avoid citations and to stay safe starting next year. If you are caught and ticketed for distracted driving of any kind, call Powerhouse Injury Attorneys at (602)265-5555 in Arizona, and in Las Vegas at (702)444-2222.