Where Does Arizona Stand on Texting and Driving?

Jan 28, 2019 | Safety Information

Nearly every U.S. state has taken steps to ban texting and driving. Some have laws against combining the two activities for a decade or more.

When 2018 began, only three states had not banned texting while driving: Arizona, Missouri and Montana. In July 2018, Arizona banned texting behind the wheel for teen drivers statewide.

Since cities and localities are still allowed to make their own rules regarding texting while driving, and since statewide bans apply to some drivers but not others, understanding the rules on texting behind the wheel in Arizona can be difficult. Here are some key points to consider when driving in Arizona.

Age plays a role in the ban.

Arizona allows drivers as young as 15 years and 6 months of age to receive an instruction permit in order to practice driving on public roads in preparation for receiving their graduated or Class G driver’s license. However, these drivers are prohibited from using wireless communication devices for any purpose while they’re behind the wheel: No texting or talking allowed.

One exception exists: Drivers on instruction permits can use their cellphone to talk or text in an emergency if stopping the car is impossible or would make an existing danger worse. Otherwise, they’re required to pull over and stop the vehicle before they make the call or text.

Similarly, Class G license holders cannot talk or text while driving for the first six months after they receive their Class G license, unless they’re in an emergency in which stopping the vehicle would be more dangerous than continuing to drive. Class G license holders can also use GPS devices, as long as they do not touch or adjust the device while driving.

Whether you can text and drive depends on where you are.

While Arizona’s state legislature hasn’t banned texting and driving throughout the state, several cities have taken the initiative to enact local ordinances that do restrict or ban texting and driving within their own limits. For instance, both Phoenix and Tucson have ordinances that restrict cell phone use behind the wheel.

In 2018, Surprise joined the list of cities that ban cell phone use behind the wheel. Surprise’s law has been called one of the toughest in Arizona: It prohibits using any hand-held communication device while driving in the city, unless the device is in hands-free mode. Drivers who are cited for texting or talking while driving may face a $250 fine. And, unlike the statewide bans for young drivers, Surprise’s ordinance is a primary offense, which means that law enforcement officers don’t need an additional reason to pull drivers over for violating the rule.

Your job may also affect whether or not you can text and drive in Arizona.

Arizona state law forbids one more class of drivers from using their cell phone behind the wheel: school bus drivers. The ban on texting or talking while driving for school bus drivers applies regardless of the driver’s age. Instead, it applies anytime they’re behind the wheel of a school bus.

Arizona does not have a specific state law that prohibits truck drivers and others with commercial motor vehicle licenses from texting or talking behind the wheel. However, federal regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) do prohibit commercial drivers from using wireless communication devices while they’re driving.

Because these regulations are federal, they apply only to drivers who drive in “interstate commerce.” The “interstate commerce” category is a broad one, however, so it is wise for commercial vehicle drivers to avoid texting or talking behind the wheel if they have any doubt at all whether or not the federal rules apply to them and their work. In addition, texting or talking behind the wheel may become evidence of negligence if an accident occurs, which can expose owners and operators to liability – a situation that can be avoided by simply saving the phone for times when the vehicle is parked.

Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Texting while driving imposes significant risks both on the driver who does it and on everyone on or near the roadway. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about 660,000 motorists nationwide are talking or texting on their phones at any given time. On average, nine people die in the U.S. every day in a crash that involves a distracted driver.

The state of Arizona may not have banned texting and driving outright, but that doesn’t mean you have to use your cell phone behind the wheel. Practicing safe habits like putting the cell phone away until after you’ve parked the car can help reduce the risk of a serious accident. And if you’ve been harmed by a distracted driver, speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as you can to learn more about your legal rights and options.

The attorneys at the Folger Law Firm are dedicated to helping our clients obtain the compensation they deserve. We work on a contingency basis, so you won’t pay fees unless we recover for you.