Arizona Governor Signs Limited Texting Ban into Law

Governor Doug Ducey has signed Arizona’s first ban on texting while driving adding he would go further than what the bill proposes and bar all minors from using mobile devices while behind the wheel. According to a news report in The Republic, Gov. Ducey’s signature on Senate Bill 1080 means that beginning July 1, 2018, any minor getting a driver’s license must refrain from texting while driving for six months. Texting and driving will also be barred during the six-month learner’s permit period. A violation will lead to a fine of $100 and up to a two-month extension of the time during which the ban is in effect.

Stopping Teens from Texting and Driving

While signing the bill, Ducey said that while he generally favors educational efforts rather than laws to shape driver behavior, it’s different when it comes to teen drivers. The state already has a number of laws regulating young drivers and the bill is a useful teaching tool. Ducey wrote in his signing statement that he would be in favor of a law that goes further banning texting while driving for all minors.

The governor’s act of signing this bill into law caps five years of effort to enact a ban on mobile devices for teens. Most states have some form of restrictions on texting while driving, but Arizona lawmakers have resisted similar efforts in recent years. Using a mobile device while driving will be considered a secondary offense. This means that police would need to have reasonable cause to believe another motor-vehicle law that has been broken before citing a driver for texting while driving.

A Great Danger for Young Drivers

Texting while driving has become a bigger danger for teenagers than drinking and driving. The number of teens who are dying or being injured as a result of texting while driving has skyrocketed as mobile device technology has advanced. Researchers at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate more than 3,000 annual teen deaths nationwide from texting and 300,000 injuries. The number of teens who text and drive has surpassed the number of teens who drink and drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acknowledged Wednesday that distracted driving of all types, including the use of handheld cellphones, is a growing hazard. Agency officials describe texting as among the worst of driver distractions because conversing by text simultaneously involves manual, visual and mental distractions. Observational surveys cited by the agency suggest more than 100,000 drivers are texting at any given daylight moment, while more than 600,000 drivers are using handheld phones while operating a car.

Preventing Teens from Texting

While laws can be quite effective at getting people to adopt safer driving habits, studies do suggest that cell phone or texting bans have not been very effective in getting teens to put their mobile devices down when they drive. Research on teen cell phone bans is still scanty, but it appears that not many teenagers are too concerned about getting a ticket because they are texting. There are other methods parents can employ to get the message across to their teenagers that texting and driving can be lethal.

Being a Good Role Model

Teenagers do absorb their parents’ driving habits, both good and bad. A study by Students Against Destructive Decisions and Liberty Mutual shows how closely teens mirror their parents’ driving behaviors. Of the teens surveyed, 78 percent admitted that they have texted while driving and that 59 percent said they have seen their parents text and drive. Parents serving as good role models can have a tremendous impact on teens. If you as a parent are telling them not to text and drive, but doing it yourself, your message isn’t going to have much of an impact. It is important that parents model the kind of driving behavior they want to see in your teen.

Be Aware

It is also important that you are aware of when you are texting or calling your teen. When teens are talking on the phone while driving, more than half the time, they are talking with their parents. Teens often take their parents’ calls or answer their texts because they know their parents will be upset if they can’t reach them. Parents need to instruct their teens not to answer the phone or text, even if it’s from them, if he or she is driving. If your teen answers the phone, ask if he or she is driving. If so, tell them to hang up and call back when they are in a safe place and not driving.

Use a Text Blocker

Picking up the phone or answering a text might be tempting for your teen despite your long lectures and graphic driver’s education videos showing the dangers of texting while driving. Ask your cell phone provider about text blocker apps. Most companies have one. Sprint, for example, has its Drive First app, which is free. This app automatically activates when it detects the phone is moving faster than 10 mph. It silences the phone’s ringer and alerts and if texts or calls come in, Drive First sends an automated response saying you are currently on the road. This app also locks your phone. Parents can log into their Drive First account online and monitor how their teens are using their phones while driving. AT&T has a similar free app called DriveMode.

You could also pick a car that blocks text messages. For example, MyKey from Ford has a Do Not Disturb feature that works pretty much like a text blocker app, keeping the phone silent when texts and calls come through. MyKey stores voicemails and texts on the phone giving your teen access to messages after they have reached their destination. Because it is programmed to activate each time a specific key is used to drive the vehicle, your teen cannot shut it off.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, you may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, permanent injuries, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced Mesa personal injury lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options.