- Associated Press - Monday, April 29, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona finally has a statewide law that bans texting while driving and other hand-held cellphone use while on the road, although fines for violators don’t kick in until 2021. A second measure that would have toughened the state’s distracted driving law to specify that any act that leads to unsafe driving is illegal was vetoed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Ducey signed the cellphone ban a week ago, and most of its provisions took effect immediately because it contained an emergency clause. But the outright ban on using a hand-held cellphone contains a delayed enforcement date of January 2021, meaning police can only issue warnings until then.

The new state legislation allows cities to continue enforcing their local laws until the statewide ban takes full effect.

The Legislature had resisted passing a law banning texting while driving and other cellphone use for more than a decade. Two years ago, a ban on teen drivers using cellphones during their first six months on the road was enacted, but majority Republicans kept rejecting broader measures. The argument was that existing distracted driving laws were all that is needed.

That changed this year, after the January death of a Salt River police officer struck by what investigators said was a distracted driver on a Phoenix-area freeway. That provided needed “inertia” for broad backing of the measure, GOP Sen. Kate Brophy McGee said.



Here’s what drivers need to know about the new cellphone law.

CELLPHONES BANNED

- Starting Jan. 1, 2021, a driver can be fined for holding a cellphone while operating a vehicle. The only exception is if the vehicle is stopped at a red light or parked.

- The act is technically illegal now, but police can only issue warnings.

- The law applies to texting, talking, looking at a map, using the internet or watching videos while holding a phone. A car-mounted cellphone can be used for navigation or talking in hands-free mode.

- A driver can be pulled over just for holding their phone.

PENALTIES

- A first violation will earn a fine of at least $75 and up to $149. A second or subsequent violation nets a fine of $150 to $250.

- A ticket won’t lead to “points” on a driver’s record. But truck drivers could temporarily lose their commercial licenses.

- A driver who causes an accident causing injury or death while using a phone can be charged with a misdemeanor carrying a six-month jail sentence, have their licenses suspended and be ordered to pay restitution up to $100,000.

LOCAL LAWS

- More than two dozen Arizona cities have enacted hand-held cellphone bans, and those can continue to be enforced until 2021. Other cities can also adopt bans no stricter than the new state law.

- All local laws would go away when the state law takes effect.

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