Arizona DPS to crack down on distracted drivers

Arizona DPS to crack down on distracted drivers

Posted: Updated:
PHOENIX -

More and more states are cracking down on distracted drivers by passing laws to keep people from texting or using their phones - behind the wheel.

But here in Arizona, there is no such law.

Despite that, the Department of Public Safety will soon be cracking down on distracted drivers, including those who are texting and driving.

Starting in January, DPS officers will reportedly be encouraged to pull over distracted drivers and cite them, even though there is no texting ban or distracted driving law in Arizona.

The crack-down comes in the wake of a DPS officer, killed after being hit by a trucker who was allegedly using his cell phone at the time. But DPS says this campaign they're thinking about doing, is aimed at distracted drivers and has been in the works for some time.

DPS wants your eyes on the road and not on the phone.

The state doesn't have bans on texting and driving or distracted drivers, but DPS plans to go after distracted drivers anyway, citing people under a different law called "speed not reasonable and prudent."

"They're going to go under the theory you're distracted, any speed's not reasonable and it may fly in some justice court.. jurisdictions.. depending on the politics of the particular person reviewing the case, but it seems like a stretch," said Mark Andersen, a criminal defense attorney.

Andersen says unlike the reckless driving law, speed not reasonable and prudent is a civil violation, similar to a speeding ticket.

"They might just choose to pay the fine or take the defensive driving school, but if they charge them with reckless driving, it's a criminal offense -- much more serious, but it seems also a lot more difficult for the state to prove."

Drivers have mixed opinions.

"I get it where someone would be upset about more laws and regulating what we can do as people, but at the same time, there's that safety aspect, I mean, what really is right?" asked John Hickman.

"Well, I think there are a bunch of crashes on the highway that could be preventable and a lot of it's due to distraction and texting," said Jacob Crutchfield.  "I think it's a good thing."

But Andersen says officers won't likely take your phone as evidence.

"But they will use your statements if you say I was looking at my phone, texting or emailing.  They're going to use those statements against you for sure."

Andersen says if cited, you're probably looking at a fine of between $100 and $300 and 3 points on your license.  Of course, DPS can charge you with reckless driving and even manslaughter if your actions cause a death.

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