Texting and driving have a notable effect on public health. In 2016, 3,450 people lost their lives due to distracted driving behaviors, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This has led many states to take steps to limit and control the practice by passing texting and driving bans. Arizona is one of these states, though its laws are more lenient than most.
A Long Road
Arizona was one of the last states to adopt any type of texting and driving ban. Over the years, lawmakers have introduced many measures addressing the practice, but all were unfruitful. In 2017, the Arizona legislature finally passed Senate Bill 1080, the first texting and driving ban of any kind in Arizona.
The bill tentatively passed the House of Representatives in April of 2017 with a very narrow margin of victory, with only one vote to spare. Governor Doug Ducey signed the bill into law, which took effect on July 1, 2018.
Under the law, drivers under the age of 18 who carry a class G license cannot use any wireless devices while driving for the first six months they have their licenses. Surprisingly, it was difficult to pass even this modest measure. The opposition to the bill was split: On the one hand, some lawmakers thought the texting ban did not go far enough to address a dangerous practice that claims thousands of lives each year. On the other, some lawmakers feared this measure would lead to an expansion to affect all drivers, interfering with their sense of personal responsibility.
The texting ban is newly in effect and currently only affects drivers under 18 during the first six months of their independent driving privileges, as well as those with learner’s permits. Adults, and teens with a driver’s licenses more than six months old can still text and drive on state roadways.
The Dangers of Texting and Driving
Public safety advocates worry that the state measure does not go far enough to address the inherent dangers of texting and driving. Three main types of distractions exist on the roadways, according to research on safe driving habits and distracted driving:
- Manual distractions involve any activity that takes a driver’s hands off the wheel. Examples include playing with the radio, reaching for a drink, or applying makeup.
- Visual distractions are anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road. For example, an accident occurring on the shoulder of the road is a common source of visual distraction.
- Cognitive distractions take a driver’s mind off the task of operating a motor vehicle. A heated conversation with a friend or partner, for example, could constitute a cognitive distraction.
Part of what makes texting while driving so dangerous is that it is one of the only activities that involves all three main types of distractions at the same time. A texting driver removes his or her hands from the wheel to grab and use the phone, takes his or her eyes off the road to view the screen, and takes his or her attention from the task of driving in favor of sending or reading a message. In fact, traveling at speeds of 55 miles per hour, a person can easily remove his or her attention from the road for a distance the size of a football field!
Given these facts, it’s no surprise that texting and driving claim thousands of lives each year. Though Arizona has laws that ban the practice for certain drivers, the majority of people who operate vehicles on the road can still legally text and drive. Whether this law evolves in the future to encompass all drivers remains to be seen.