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Law enforcement to hand out tickets for distracted driving in Arizona starting Jan. 1, 2021

Hands Free Driving
Posted at 10:21 AM, Dec 14, 2020

PHOENIX — In April of last year, Arizona passed a state-wide ban on using your phone while behind the wheel. For the past 18 months, Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers have been educating drivers about the law. Starting Jan.1, 2021, they will begin giving citations.

DPS Sergeant Kameron Lee says the bottom line is: don't hold your phone while driving. He says you can answer a phone call if it's connected to Bluetooth and you can use your phone's GPS if the phone is cradled in a holder. You can also use your phone if you're calling 911.

"Officers will not be taking your phone to verify who you were calling or what you were doing on your phone," Sgt. Lee said. "If it's in your hand, most people are talking to a friend or a loved one. Very rarely they are making a 911 call. So, when they are stopped, the trooper will be able to have that conversation."

He says a trooper can pull you over if the phone is in your hand, on your shoulder, or in your lap. He says using a phone is a primary offense, meaning you don't need to be doing anything else wrong to be pulled over.

According to Triple-A thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands of people hurt in crashes involving distracted drivers, in recent years.

Personal Injury attorney Marc Lamber represents many individuals whose lives have been impacted by drivers who have been focused on their phones instead of the roads.

"There is no rewind button. If you hurt someone or worse, you cannot undo that," said Lamber.

"If you're traveling 55 miles an hour, to give your viewers some perspective, that's traveling the length of a football field with a blindfold on," he added.

Over the years ABC15 has spoken to many survivors who suffered many injuries at the hands of a distracted driver.

Becca Cook was almost left with a permanent limp after her crash.

"There is no Facebook post, no phone call, no channel surfing on the radio that is worth that. That wouldn't just ruin the life of the person you injured or killed, but it would ruin your life as well," said Cook.

Brendan Lyons a former firefighter who now runs the non-profit advocacy organization Look! Save a Life has been a big advocate who showed up at the state legislature year after year to lobby for this bill.

Lyons suffered serious injuries after a driver looking at his phone plowed into Lyons while he was out on a bike ride.

"I sustained 6 fractured vertebrae, a fractured pelvis, and I bit off half of my tongue," said Lyons.

Arizonans have also mourned the loss of Salt River Police officer Clayton Townsend and DPS Trooper Tim Huffman over the last few years.

"We are so thankful that the legislation has finally passed," said Warren and Tamara Huffman, from their home in Michigan. Trooper Huffman was Warren Huffman's twin brother. The couple is now working to pass similar legislation in Michigan.

DPS lists the first violation ranging from $75 to $149. A second violation is $150 to $250.

According to DPS, the law only applies to when a vehicle is moving, however using a phone at a stoplight can distract you and they recommend not using it at all while in the driver's seat.