Texting and driving is illegal in every state except for Arizona, Missouri, and Montana. Arizona lawmakers have been struggling to pass a ban on texting while driving for more than a decade, and 2018 may be the year they finally do it. This legislation can prevent car accidents and keep drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists safer. Early in February 2018, Senate Bill 1261 passed through the Senate Committee on Transportation and Technology.
Senate Bill 1261 would fine drivers caught reading, writing, or sending text messages between $25 and $99 for a first offense, and between $100 and $200 for subsequent offenses. Drivers who cause a serious injury or death while texting and driving would be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor and be fined up to $4,000.
The bill must pass through the Senate Rules Committee before going before the full Senate for a vote. So, if you’re wondering, “Is texting and driving illegal in Arizona?” . . . the answer is “no,” not yet, but it very soon might be. Arizona is one of the very few states with no distracted driving laws on the books.
The Numbers on Texting and Driving
The epidemic of texting while driving kills an average of 9 people per day nationwide. Distracted driving is deadly and ubiquitous, with a recent survey finding that 50 million drivers place calls while driving, while about 102 million answer calls while driving. As much as 94 percent of the American population supports a ban on texting while driving.
Texting and driving is a major cause of accidents, both in Arizona and across the country. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association and the U.S. Department of Transportation, at least 23 percent of accidents are related to texting and driving.
Once again: the only states that haven’t banned texting while driving yet are Arizona, Missouri, and Montana. Lawmakers here in Arizona have been trying to ban texting while driving for more than a decade—making 11 attempts in the process.
After all that work, is texting and driving illegal in Arizona? Not yet.
About 660,000 motorists across the country use their phones while driving every day. This is a serious problem and a threat to the safety of every other driver on the road. Most of Arizona’s lawmakers are in favor of a bill to make texting and driving illegal in Arizona. Most of the people of Arizona are in favor of such a bill. Yet texting while driving is still legal here.
Phoenix Firefighters Face Tragedy
In early February, two Phoenix firefighters shared their tragic stories before the Senate Committee on Transportation and Technology.
Brendan Lyons, who was a career firefighter, was hit from behind by a distracted driver while on a bike ride with his fiancée. His own fire department responded to the accident, in which he was so badly injured that his colleagues didn’t realize at first that they were treating one of their own. He lost his firefighting career on that day, but began campaigning to make sure texting while driving was made illegal in Arizona.
Jonathon Hall, another Phoenix firefighter, lost his father in a distracted driving crash. Thomas Hall was killed in a crash in Prescott Valley in 2016, rear-ended by a woman looking at her cellphone. “My dad was my hero and losing him is terrible,” Hall said. Both Hall and Lyons appeared before the Senate Committee at the beginning of February.
Is Texting and Driving Illegal in Arizona?—“Common Sense”
As of February 2018, Senate Bill 1261 had unanimous support of all members of the Committee on Transportation and Technology. Members of both parties expressed their support for the bill.
Senator Steve Farley, a Democrat from Tucson and the Bill’s sponsor, spoke about the number of victims’ families showing up at his office to tell them the stories of their loss. In an interview with Cronkite News, Farley said he heard about “how their life was forever changed by a texting driver who carelessly ran into, killed, or injured seriously a family member or themselves. We have to stop that from happening.”
Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Worsley, a Republican from Mesa, apologized to the public for the fact that the bill has taken so long to go forward. He said, “Sometimes it just seems like our political ideology gets in the way of common sense.”
Although the bill may be common sense, it is still in danger of not being passed. It looks like 2018 may be the year Arizona finally puts a ban on texting while driving, but this is far from a foregone conclusion. We can’t rest on our laurels and assume the ban will go through.
Is Texting and Driving Illegal in Arizona Yet?
Senate Bill 1261 is the twelfth time that state lawmakers have tried to place a ban on distracted driving. They had some limited success in 2017: in April of last year, Senate Bill 1080 made it illegal for drivers to text while driving during the first six months that they have their license.
At the time, the bill’s supporters took pains to assure opponents that this was not the start of a process that would end in a universal ban on texting while driving. Some of the bill’s opponents were against any ban whatsoever, while some were opposed to seeing a partial bill pass.
As things stand now, it looks like a universal ban may come very soon. Texting while driving is not illegal in Arizona at the moment, but there’s a good chance that state legislators will pass Senate Bill 1261 by the end of the year. This would be an important step on the way to ensuring that Arizona’s roads are safe for all of us.
Have You Been Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident?
At The Khalidi Law Firm, PLLC, we offer representation for clients who have been injured in car accidents and pedestrian accidents. Ultimately, our goal is to get you the recovery you may deserve for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. If you or a loved one has been involved in such an accident, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with us today.