PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Public Safety is educating drivers about the risks of distracted driving before a new law takes effect after the first of the year.
Starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal in Arizona to talk or text on a cellphone while driving unless using a hands-free device. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s signed the law in April of 2019 enacting a ban on texting and driving.
“We have stopped and warned over 15,000 drivers and educated them about the new law while providing them with pamphlets about the do’s and don’ts,” Arizona Department of Public Safety Spokesman Bart Graves told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.
This law prohibits drivers from using a cellphone or a stand-alone electronic device while driving unless it is being used in a hands-free mode. That includes any kind of device, like cell phones, tablets, music and gaming devices.
Drivers will be in violation of the law if they are caught holding a phone to make a call, reading or sending text messages, and holding or supporting a device with their body.
Anyone breaking the rule could be fined between $75 and $149 for a first violation and between $150 and $250 for each following violation.
There are some exceptions to the new law.
“GPS navigation as well and what we mean by that is that you can have the navigation itself in your vehicle but it has to be hands free and of course if you’re in real trouble you can make an emergency call,” Graves said.
Arizona State Sen. Kate Brophy McGee introduced the bill in late January of 2019 following the death of Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend.
Townsend was struck by a car while conducting a traffic stop on Loop 101.
The driver admitted that he was texting and driving when the crash occurred. Nearly two years after the incident, a grand jury indicted Jerry Don Sanstead Jr. in the Jan. 8, 2019, death of Townsend.
Tempe, Glendale, Fountain Hills, Phoenix, Surprise and El Mirage all have some form of law against drivers using cellphones or other handheld devices.