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Do Hands-Free Devices Improve Safety?

By The Husband and Wife Law Team on February 27, 2020

The state of California started an avalanche of legislation being passed all over the country when they banned the use of cell phones without a hands-free device, which has resulted in 25 states and territories adopting similar legislation. The intention behind the legislation is to improve safety on the roads, and Arizona is one of the most recent states to join the movement.

Arizona’s New Ban on Hand-Held Devices While Driving

In April of last year, Arizona state governor Doug Ducey enacted a new piece of legislation to ban the use of handheld devices while operating vehicles. While the penalties do not go into effect until January 1st, 2021, police officers are already cracking down, issuing warnings. Determining fault in an accident with a distracted driver just became easier.

Some critical elements of this new law include:

  • It is now illegal to hold a cellphone while operating a vehicle unless that vehicle is parked or at a red light
  • This law applies to texting, talking, looking at a map for navigation, using the internet, or watching videos.
  • A proper car-mount and hands-free system is the only way to drive and use a cell phone legally
  • You can be pulled over for just having the cell phone in your hands, regardless of whether or not you are using the device

Arizona’s Cell Phone Law: The Penalties

  • The first violation of the cell phone ban can result in a fine of between $74 and $149
  • A second violation can result in a fine of $150 – $250
  • While no points will go on your license for such an offense, commercial drivers can have their licenses suspended
  • If you violate this law and that violation leads to an accident that causes bodily harm, you can be charged with a misdemeanor that carries six months of jail time, a suspended license, and up to $100,000 in restitution

Is Driving Hands-Free Safer?

With these state-wide bans continuing to go into place through the US, many ask whether or not these laws actually make it safer – as someone talking on the phone is still distracted, whether they have the phone in their hands or not. From what we can tell, the answer is simple: The ban may help the problem, but they don’t fully resolve it.

The case in point is the state of California. In 2008, California banned the use of handheld devices while driving, putting stringent requirements and penalties in place. Since 2008, California has seen a 47% reduction in fatalities caused by cell phone-related accidents, and similar statistics exist for injuries and total accidents. However, this didn’t fully solve the problem – thousands of accidents still occur because of drivers who are distracted by phone conversations, even with both hands are on the steering wheel.

A Recent Study On Reaction Times While Having a Conversation on the Road

A recent article from LiveScience.com highlighted a study from the UK where two experiments to test reaction times and awareness of their surroundings when undistracted, compared to when they’re having a conversation, especially a conversation that requires them to picture visual images.

Those that were undistracted consistently scored at the top, while those who were having a conversation missed many obstacles, providing evidence that a conversation, whether hands-free or not, was distracting enough to be dangerous. The study also noted that discussions with passengers tend to be less distracting because passengers are aware of the environment and can become silent when needed, whereas people on the phone are entirely unaware.

Posted in: Auto Accident

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