Arizona bans use of cell phones while driving, finally.

In April, Arizona became the 48th state to ban the use of handheld cell phones and other portable wireless communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2318 into law on April 22, 2019. The law will take effect on January 1, 2021.

Arizona has been trying and failing to pass similar bans on cell phone use for many years.  The difference this year is attributed to the tragic death of Officer Clayton Townsend.  Officer Townsend, an officer with the Salt River Police Department, was struck and killed while standing beside his patrol car during a routine traffic stop. The motorist who struck him later admitted he was texting at the time. Officer Townsend left behind a wife and a 10-month-old daughter. Officer Townsend’s mother, Toni Townsend, testified before the Arizona State Legislature in support of the bill.

The new law makes it illegal for drivers to physically hold or support a cell phone, make or receive calls, write, send or read text messages, e-mails, Instagram messages or Internet data.  Voice communications are permitted if they are made through earpieces or headphones or the vehicle’s built in (spoken) interface. Text messages may be sent through voice commands. Drivers may also use a vehicle’s built-in video system for information about the vehicle or mapping directions.

Currently, police officers may issue warnings; however, the officers cannot begin to issue citations until January 1, 2021. First offenses carry a $75-149 fine. Second offenses are $150-250.