NewsOperation Safe Roads


Arizona Distracted Driving Summit goes virtual for the 6th Annual Event

Distracted Driving
Posted at 5:12 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 11:33:27-05

PHOENIX — This week marks the 6th Annual Arizona Distracted Driving Summit. The event is normally at the Arizona State Capitol, but the omicron coronavirus variant has forced it to be virtual once again.

January 2022 marks the first full year that the state has had enforcement on cell phone use behind the wheel.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey made Arizona the 48th state, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, to have a distracted driving bill when he signed it into law back in 2019. The state wanted an education period, so fines and citations were not handed out by DPS and local law enforcement until January of 2021.

However, it seems more education needs to be done as more drivers get back on the road amid the pandemic. Some are behind the wheel for the very first time.

"Next month I should be getting my license or should be doing my driver's test and hopefully get my license," said high school junior Mackenzie Bethancourt.

Mackenzie and her twin sister, Rachel, go to school in the West Valley.

The pair have grown up learning about road safety. Their dad, Jeremy Bethancourt, is on the ABC15 Operation Safe Roads Advisory Board and spent years as a facilitator for the Distracted Driving Summit.

"It's always scary when you're trying to learn... and they're like just not paying attention," Rachel explained. "And you're just trying to figure everything out and it's like, 'Ahh!'"

Now, what they have heard all their life is a scary road reality.

"They're looking down on their phones," Mackenzie said. "And I'm like, 'Look up!'"

Distraction and poor driving are still huge problems on Arizona roads.

ADOT has seen a rise in deadly crashes the last few years, including in 2020 when there were fewer drivers on the road. In 2021, we lost even more drivers at 1,090.

Arizona seeing more deadly crashes despite new report finding fewer drivers on the road

ABC15 obtained new data from DPS from January 2021 to January 2022. Troopers cited 7,169 drivers for violating the hands-free law and passed out 6,002 warnings.

"It's just kind of interesting how people like kind of like go, 'Oh, I don't need to follow that rule,'" Mackenzie said. "But, not following that rule can cause a lot of problems for everyone else around you."

That is why it is so important to refresh driving habits and have serious conversations with teen drivers.

The Distracted Driving Summit's online platform has videos, interactive quizzes to test knowledge, and many other resources all for free to help parents start a productive conversation.

The event is officially on Wednesday, but the information can be accessed right now. Click here.

"There's only so many things that you can do to prevent everything, but you can do those small things and take the big step," said Rachel.

Do you have a road issue or a question for Operation Safe Roads? You can call 833-AZ-ROADS or email