Making the Case for Tougher Texting Laws in Arizona

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Hang Up and Drive SignJust last month, the Arizona House rejected a bill that would have placed a ban on texting and driving. Currently the State of Arizona has no ban on cell phone use while driving. That puts us in the minority, as the majority of states do have restrictions or bans on “distracted driving.”

Laws Curbing Distractions Tough and Trending Tougher
Recently the City of Fort Lee, New Jersey, a small town of 35,000 people, passed a law that prohibits pedestrians from texting and walking. The City passed this law after they saw three pedestrian deaths this year alone due to texting and walking. The City relied on a recent Stony Brook University study that concluded that people who were walking and texting at the same time were 60 per cent more likely to veer off line than non-texters. Fort Lee police now issue an $85 ticket to texting pedestrians.

There is now increasing liability for corporations who permit their employees to text or use cell phones while driving on the job. There have been four separate incidents recently where jurors found companies liable for their employee’s accidents when the employee was texting behind the wheel. In one instance, a jury found a lumbar company liable after their employee crippled a 78-year-old woman when he was texting and driving. The company ended up paying the woman $16.1 million in compensation for her catastrophic injuries.

Distractors Up the Ante
Despite this, what are the auto manufacturers doing? The auto industry is going full bore ahead with installing more distracting devices such as Wi-Fi equipped vehicles that are enabled for Facebook and Twitter. Audi was the first to offer Wi-Fi in their vehicles. Now Nissan, General Motors and Ford Motor are all going forward with similar systems. Do we really need to be connected to Facebook 24/7 or while we are driving?

The National Safety Council estimates that mobile phone use is a contributing cause to 24% of all auto crashes!

What’s Up With Arizona?
As a Valley personal injury attorney, it is a theme I see all too often. People injured by the carelessness of others. Many of the cases I see involve someone who was using their cell phone while driving. Corporations are putting profits above safety. If you or a loved one have not been injured or affected by someone texting or talking on a cell phone, you have been affected in the form of higher insurance rates, in large part because our state has no law against the use of cell phones or texting while driving. If you are the owner of a small company, you could be held liable for your employee’s decision to text and drive.

The tiny town of Fort Lee, New Jersey can see the danger. So can the National Safety Council. Why can’t our Arizona lawmakers?

We all need to put our phones down while driving.

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