We’ve all witnessed distracted drivers on the road: someone eating with one hand barely on the wheel, people texting at red lights, or worse yet, while they’re driving; another one includes adjusting the radio beside you, while starting to veer into your lane; business people lost in thought on a conference call during their morning commute.

Unfortunately, scenes like this are far too common, yet extremely dangerous.

Distracted drivers are the direct cause of thousands of crashes across Arizona and throughout the nation. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.” Not only is driving distracted a common-sense thing to avoid, but it’s also backed up by many laws: in most places, it’s purely illegal to drive when you aren’t 100 percent focused on the road. Are Arizona “Texting While Driving Laws” stringent enough?

The dangers of distracted driving

The reality of the dangers of distracted driving are in the numbers. Millennial drivers, in particular, offer a heightened threat since they grew up with electronics; they’re naturally more inclined to look at their phones on the road or drive over the speed limit. In fact, NHTSA notes that drivers between ages 16 to 24 as the “worst-behaved drivers,” with at least 88% of them exhibiting at least one risky driving behavior.

Other notable statistics include:

  • In 2016, there were 962 deaths related to collisions in Arizona; the second year in the row that this statistic has climbed higher.
  • Each day across the U.S., approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver.
  • There are some estimates that link distracted driving to more than one in four collisions nationwide. For teens, this statistic is even higher, with up to 60% of moderate to severe crashes a result of distracted driving.
  • Driving distracted now ranks right up there with speeding and driving while impaired as a leading cause of fatal and serious injury crashes.

Laws against distracted driving, including texting while driving laws and laws for new drivers

While the dangers of texting are real, it’s not banned by the laws of Arizona. This is rare—in fact, Arizona and Montana are the only two states that don’t have explicit, statewide laws banning texting while driving. However, the cities of Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff each have laws prohibiting texting when behind the wheel, and there is one exception, this one targeted to beginning drivers: For the first six months of having a license, new drivers are banned from texting while driving.

In Arizona, statute 28-701A tells drivers that they need to maintain a driving speed that is “reasonable and prudent” within their driving circumstances. Since there are no statewide laws against texting, Arizona Department of Public Safety has increasingly turned to this law to help them stop distracted drivers.

Think twice before driving distracted.

The Phoenix metro area is full of long, multi-lane streets. This gives drivers plenty to pay attention to frequent traffic speed changes, bike lanes, yielding to faster-moving traffic and so on. It’s critical to pay attention to other vehicles and your speed as you navigate the roads. There’s no need to add distracted driving to the mix—your food, that text message or phone call—it can all wait until you’re safely stopped at your destination.