Arizona’s handheld cell phone ban; citations

The 7/7/2021 print edition (p.12-13) of AFN ran a story detailing the number of citations issued Phoenix and metro area police against motorists violating Arizona’s “new” handheld cellphone ban. The law has been on the books since 2019, but the penalty (a fine) only began on Jan 1, 2021; prior to that it was simply, at most, a warning. So at about 6 months in here’s what they found:

  • Chandler PD (with 334 sworn) issued “710 in the last 5 months”
  • Phoenix PD (with “just under 3,000” sworn) issued “984… through June 26”
  • Tempe PD (with 326 [old number from 2011, though] ) issued 183
  • Scottsdale (with 400 sworn) issued 156
  • Mesa (with 801 sworn) issued  issued 175
  • DPS (with 1,1171 sworn) issued “more than 4,000”

It’s not clear what these numbers mean; the article points out the seemingly much higher rate of Chandler PD compared to some other EV cities. On the other hand, c’mon, the Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and Mesa PD rate is preposterously low…. one citation written by each officer over a period of months? And yes, not all officers are doing traffic patrol; but whatever, almost no tickets written. Like all traffic infractions, they are almost never cited, and seems to be a continuing trend — accelerated, but not initiated[1}, by the “George Floyd” effect — of increasingly lax enforcement of traffic laws by police.

Drifting drivers are a significant cause for concern among bicyclists, especially since drivers tend to disregard bicyclists traveling in bike lanes. Drivers who “fail to maintain proper lane” and subsequently cause a crash which results in any serious injury were always automatically guilty of a criminal driving offense (this was true even before the new handheld ban); though it isn’t clear if police/prosecutors know or bother to bring the charge.

Drifting due to distraction is common behavior among drivers, the cause is usually simple distraction, typically being distracted by a cell phone… but that’s not supposed to matter, a driver doing this is committing a moving violation (28-729) , not just a handheld violation. The former being license points plus a relatively large fine; the latter being no points and a small-ish fine[2]  . This example video is just a short fragment, the driver was drifting for over a mile before he turned off:

[1] See e.g. this 2017 article showing traffic enforcement statistics dropping precipitously years before George Floyd’s death enforcement-drops-crashes-proliferate-people-die ; most alarmingly a huge decline in criminal traffic filings (things like DUI, reckless driving, criminal speeding, etc).

[2] See HB2318 59R1 for particulars , and in particular adds the new section 28-914 which sets the fine at between 75 and $149 (plus normal fees), as well as adding it as a predicate offense for 28-672.

2 thoughts on “Arizona’s handheld cell phone ban; citations”

  1. Traffic control signs are treated as mere suggestions by the vast majority of Arizona motorists. The people who are paid to enforce these laws need to step up their game if we are going to have safer roadways to travel upon.

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