We have all experienced sitting at a green light, not moving due to the driver ahead who is distracted by their cell phone. Even more unsettling, driving on the freeway seeing the driver next to you looking down at their phone. More than 220 million people have a cellphone in the United States, and an estimated 80% of cellphone users check their phones while driving.
In the 2019 Arizona Youth Survey, young people identified distracted driving as one of the top 5 concerns they had for their wellbeing, and they are right to be worried. That same year approximately 10,491 drivers were involved in crashes caused by distracted driving behavior. According to NHTSA, sending or receiving a text message diverts a driver's eyes from the road for almost 5 seconds, at which time the vehicle has traveled the distance of an entire football field.
Distracted driving is a significant public health and safety issue, and this year you could get a fine for it. In April 2019, Governor Ducey signed H.B. 2318, making it illegal to talk or text on a cellphone while driving, and issued a warning period ending December 31, 2020. This year drivers caught using a cell phone while driving will be issued a citation and a $75 to $149 fine. While this law's primary focus is cell phones, smartwatches and gaming devices are also included. This law doesn't apply to using a hands-free system or earpiece to dictate a text or listen to a message; however, drivers should always avoid distractions while driving.
Start the year with safety in mind and make it a point to avoid distractions while driving. Checking your navigation, skipping a song, or letting someone know your ETA on your cell phone is convenient, but it should not get in the way of your safety. Consider using the following tips to improve your driving habits this year.
- Prepare for your drive before you hit the road. Start your navigation, check traffic conditions, choose your music or podcast, and set your climate controls.
- Finish dressing, eating, or any personal grooming at home or when you get to your destination. The road is not the place for multitasking.
- Keep your phone out of reach if it is too much of a temptation. The glove box, back seat, or trunk are all excellent places to store your phone while you drive.
- Get your passengers to help as "designated texters." Ask them to answer your calls, respond to texts, and program the navigation.
Be proactive about your safety by planning ahead before getting behind the wheel. For more tips to stay safe on the road visit, MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/DistractedDriving