Arizona Texting Laws

Arizona Distracted Driving Law

  1. Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for school bus drivers (Primary Law).

Arizona’s Texting While Driving Stand

Like many other states, Arizona has been struggling in recent years to enact practical legislation designed to prevent accidents due to distracted driving, primarily those involving the use of cell phones while driving. In March 2012 the Arizona House of Representatives passed legislation that would have inadvertently resulted in a ban on all texting, but upon realizing their error they immediately back-tracked and defeated the legislation. The confusion was caused by an amendment by State Rep. Steve Urie, R-Gilbert, who added the texting ban to HB 2512, a bill supposedly dealing only with accident reporting, that initially passed without most lawmakers realizing the ban’s full effect.

Meanwhile, two measures dealing with “distracted driving” are still before the Arizona Legislature. One which bans cell phone use and texting while driving for junior drivers which have been approved by the House, and another bill prohibiting texting by all drivers which have passed the Transportation Committee. There were five bills filed relating to distracted driving in 2012, in hopes of not repeating the failure of all such legislation in 2011.

There are some local prohibitions currently in place, in particular in the City of Phoenix, where drivers face a fine of between $100 and $250 for text messaging while driving. Drivers of public transport such as school buses are also banned from using cell phones while on the road. The ordinance in Phoenix banning texting while driving was enacted in 2007. It has resulted in an average of 1.5 tickets per month being issued, although police have complained that enforcement of the ban in many cases is difficult. In the past Coconino County supervisors have blocked the Board of Health from outlawing texting although some members have voiced support for some statewide legislation.

The following are the major pieces of legislation before the Arizona Legislature this session dealing with distracted driving issues:

·HB 2311: Bans the use of wireless communications devices by drivers with learner’s permits and drivers under 18 who have had their licenses for less than six months. No action yet.

· House Bill 2125: Essentially bans texting while driving and imposes fines ranging from $50 to $200. Has been approved by the Public Safety Committee by an 8-0 vote.

·Senate Bill 1056: New drivers under 18 or driving with learner’s permits would be forbidden from using wireless communication devices. It was approved by the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee and is now awaiting consideration by the full house.

·HB 2312: Forbids driving while distracted “in any manner.” No action yet.

·HB 2321: Outlaws text messaging while driving in Arizona. No action yet.

The city of Tucson was working towards an ordinance to ban texting while driving at the end of 2011, modeled after the one in Phoenix, with the passage of the ordinance expected this year. The city of Glendale is also considering taking similar action, but passage appears less likely.

Previous Legislation

In 2007, the same year Phoenix outlawed, a bill seeking to ban all cell phone use while driving was blocked. Several anti-distraction bills died in 2008, such as HB 2397 and HB2396 which would have banned cell phones without hands-free devices as well as HB 2398 which would have banned cell phone use by drivers with learner’s permits.

In 2009 a provision to ban the use of handheld cell phones was stripped from legislation in order to get some kind of texting ban through yet it still failed to obtain passage. In 2011 SB 1538 would have banned texting by all drivers but was held up until time ran out on the session and it died. SB 1111 also sought to ban the use of wireless/handheld devices while driving but died in committee, as did HB 2426, which would prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from cell phoning or text messaging while behind the wheel.

Also in 2009, SB 1443 and HB 2492 tried unsuccessfully to prohibit text messaging while driving on Arizona roads, and HB 2590 and HB 2191 tried to ban cell phones while driving unless they could be operated hands-free.

(SB 1334) called for a ban on text messaging on Arizona’s roads and highways but it died because of a tie vote on March 2.

All attempts at passing distracted driving legislation in 2010 failed, including the once-promising SB 1334 which would have outlawed texting unless a hands-free device or voice-activated feature is used. HB 2656 would have placed restrictions on new drivers with less than six months’ experience regardless of the drivers’ age. SB 1067 attempted to prohibit drivers from watching any video images including TV or DVD while driving and would have outlawed cars that were designed with these devices are located where the driver can see them. Although approved by the transportation committee it never went anywhere for the rest of the year.

In 2011 by the Arizona Senate approved a bill to ban texting but it died in the House. A bill to ban the use of handheld wireless devices by drivers under 18 also died.