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Arizona Now Bans Hand-held Cellphone Use While Driving

April 22, 2019

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB-2318, a ban on hand-held cellphone use behind the wheel in Arizona, into law Monday.

The signing ceremony took place inside the Rotunda of the Arizona Capitol Museum.

“Let’s send a message that that text message can wait. It’s not worth your life,” Ducey said before signing the measure.

Ducey was joined by the family of fallen Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend, who was killed by a suspected distracted driver this past January.

Ducey said momentum changed thanks in large part to the advocacy of Clayton's mother Toni Townsend. Authorities said the driver who hit him was texting his wife.

“I think everyone just saw this as such an avoidable death,” Ducey said. “And when someone comes down and speaks with the power and passion of a mom on behalf of a fallen son, how could they not deliver it to the governor’s desk?”

Although HB 2318 bans handheld cellphone use while driving, drivers can use their phones at stoplights and when their vehicle is parked. Drivers are also allowed to use their phones in an emergency.

Officers can issue warnings immediately and can write tickets starting in 2021. Lawmakers hope the delay will give people time to learn about the new law.

A first violation would result in ticket of between $75 and $150. A second violation would be a ticket of up to $250.

Cities, towns and counties that have their own distracted driving ordinances can continue to enforce those laws for the time being.

“There is a law that’s been signed into effect, but we need to change our behaviors today,” Toni said. “We don’t have to wait for the law. A lot of lives can be saved. We’re educating starting today.”

Arizona is 48th state to ban texting and the 18th state to ban hand-held phone use while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Ducey declined to say whether he’ll sign a second bill approved last week that strengthens Arizona’s existing distracted driving law, allowing officers to make a stop for any action unrelated to driving that creates an immediate hazard. It was proposed as an alternative to restricting cellphone use that wouldn’t specifically target a driver’s behavior, which some Republicans found more palatable.

The Arizona law leaves Montana and Missouri as the only states that do not ban texting for anyone driving, though Missouri does for drivers 21 and younger.

Download HB-2318