Texting while driving just isn’t worth the risks. We all know that using a cell phone while behind the wheel can have serious consequences, including fatal ones (in fact, drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to increase their risk of crashing). And now, there’s a state law to back up that common sense. 

On April 26 of this year, Arizona became the 48th state to ban drivers from using hand-held communication devices while driving. Governor Doug Ducey said that he wanted lawmakers to “send a message that a text message can wait. It’s not worth your life.” States with hands-free laws have shown 16% fewer fatalities from traffic accidents. 

Here’s everything you need to know before you hit the road with your cell phone. 

When does the new law take effect? 

According to the governor’s website, the new law took effect immediately after it was passed, but penalties for violation won’t be issued until January 1, 2021. 

Wasn’t there already a ban? 

Several cities throughout the state—including Phoenix, Glendale and Tempe—already had bans on cell phone use while driving, but this is the first statewide law. Those existing city ordinances (26 different ones in all) will be replaced with the new legislation. 

What exactly does the law prohibit?

The law specifically prohibits the handheld use of any portable wireless communication device (such as a cell phone) or standalone electronic device (like a tablet or laptop), including: 

  • Talking on a cell phone while physically holding it with any part of your body (not just your hands).
  • Writing, sending or reading texts, instant messages, email, Internet data, or any other text-based communication. 
  • Watching, recording or broadcasting video.

Is there any legal way to use a cell phone while driving? 

While not recommended, as it is still a distraction, hands-free use is permitted. Using the phone while stopped (such as at a stoplight) is also permitted. Here’s what you will be allowed to do: 

  • Talk on the phone if you’re not holding your device, but instead are using a headphone device, earpiece, device on your wrist or interface embedded in your vehicle.
  • Swipe your phone screen to make or answer a call. 
  • Use talk-to-text or other voice-based communication. 
  • Use a GPS system. 
  • Use a handheld device to call 911. 
  • Use a handheld device while parked or stopped at a traffic light. 

What are the fines if I do get a citation?

You could be fined up to $149 for the first offense, and between $150 and $250 for each subsequent offense. 

Drivers can be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail and receive a $2,500 fine for causing a crash resulting in serious injury or death. 

Can I be pulled over or fined before January 2021? 

Law enforcement can pull you over now for texting and driving, and will issue warnings if you violate the new law. They may also issue a speeding ticket, as no speed is reasonable or prudent while texting.

But why wait to change distracted driving behavior?  Protect yourself and others by making a commitment now to follow the dos and don’ts outlined in the new law. Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving in this article.