Is It Illegal to Text and Drive in Arizona?   

Texting and driving is one of the most hazardous behaviors a driver can perform in a vehicle. It is possibly the most dangerous form of distracted driving and responsible for thousands of lost lives every year.

Many states have implemented statewide bans on cell phone use behind the wheel, but Arizona is not one of them. The state as a whole may not have a statewide law banning texting and driving, but several Arizona cities have enacted local-level laws against texting and driving. Some have banned the use of any electronic messaging devices behind the wheel within city limits. Violations of these local laws can lead to fines and additional penalties depending on individual circumstances.

Distracted Driving in Arizona

No statewide laws exist against distracted driving in Arizona except for commercial vehicle drivers and novice drivers. In Arizona, an individual qualifies for an instruction permit at 15 and half years old, and permit holders may only drive when accompanied by licensed drivers who are at least 21 years of age. The state prohibits the use of any wireless communication devices for instruction permit holders. The only exception to the wireless device ban for instruction permit holders is in case of emergency to contact the police or an ambulance when stopping the vehicle would be dangerous.

Some local areas uphold specific laws concerning distracted driving. For example, it is illegal for any driver to use a wireless communication device behind the wheel within the city limits of Tucson unless they use hands-free devices. In Phoenix, drivers may talk on a cell phone, but the city bans texting behind the wheel entirely. Tucson enforces the city distracted driving ban with a $50 fine for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $200 for future offenses. In Phoenix, fines can range between $150 and $250 depending on whether the distracted driving leads to a collision.

Dangers of Texting While Driving

Any distraction behind the wheel is dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,450 deaths in 2016 alone from distracted driving. Drivers have a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely at all times, and this includes paying close attention to their surroundings and changes in traffic conditions. Any type of distraction can potentially diminish a driver’s reaction time to a sudden change on the road and lead to an accident. Three main types of distractions exist.

  • Visual distractions are anything that causes a driver to look away from the road.
  • Manual distractions are anything that requires the use of the driver’s hands.
  • Cognitive distractions divert a driver’s attention away from driving safely.

Texting and driving is so dangerous because it encompasses all three of these types of distractions into one act. A driver will need at least one hand to operate his or her cell phone, his or her eyes to read messages, and the driver will be paying attention to the text conversation instead of driving.

Distracted driving may not be explicitly illegal in Arizona, but it is crucial for all Arizona drivers to understand the risks and possible legal penalties of texting behind the wheel — not only extending to local-level laws but also potential civil liability for damages caused by distracted driving accidents. A distracted driver, for instance, may owe another driver compensation for medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and other damages from a distracted driving accident.

Drivers should not consider the lack of an explicit statewide law against texting while driving as a pass to text behind the wheel; it is always safer to keep a cell phone set to silent while driving and wait to respond to text messages until after parking the vehicle.