Your Next Text Message Could Cost $500!

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), eighty percent of all motor vehicle accidents are due to distracted driving. Approximately 6,000 accidents each year are the result of driver inattention—and cell phones are the chief culprit.

Typically cell phone laws are passed at the state level, but Tempe, Arizona is making the issue a city interest, and has passed some new driving laws that take a different approach to the distracted driving issue. If you are relocating or shipping a car to Arizona be aware of the newest law. 

On September 24, the Tempe City Council passed a new law implementing hefty fines for anyone using an electronic device while driving. The new ordinance, due to go into effect thirty days after passing, does not prevent people from talking or texting while driving, but allows police to pull over and fine drivers who swerve or drive sporadically while using a device. Drivers will be fined $100 for their first offense, $250 for their second, and $500 for any additional offenses within two years.

Although other Arizona cities like Phoenix and Tucson have strict “texting while driving” laws, the state is one of the few in the U.S. that doesn’t have an official ban on talking or texting while driving. Other states without any cell phone laws are Montana, South Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, and South Carolina. The majority of states with cell phone laws only ban texting while driving, but New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Hawaii, and Washington, DC have complete bans on driving while using a cell phone.

The NHTSA reports that people driving while using their handheld devices drive as though they have a blood alcohol content %0.08—the legal limit in most states. According to a 2009 study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, a driver using a mobile phone is four times more likely to wind up in an accident than a driver not using a phone, and texting increases that risk by 23.2 times.

States that give the heftiest fines for driving while talking or texting are New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Alaska. Alaska exceeds all others, with fines of up to $10,000 for repeat offenders, and even a possible year in jail.

Even in states like Arizona, that don’t have statewide cell phone bans, laws are being passed to take a tougher stance on talking and texting while driving. In addition, state and local governments are putting more focus on educating drivers on the risks of distracted driving.

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