Arizona police think outside the box to combat distracted driving

When it comes to distracted driving, Arizona's laws are some of the most permissive in the nation. Recently, however, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has begun taking a new approach to cracking down on distracted drivers.

A new approach to distracted driving in Arizona

In Arizona, bus drivers are prohibited from texting or talking on handheld cellphones while on the road. However, Arizona law does not restrict handheld cellphone use for other drivers, and is one of only seven states without an outright ban on texting while driving. Although the Arizona legislature has tried repeatedly to restrict cellphone use and texting while driving, they have not yet succeeded in those efforts.

In recent months, however, the Arizona DPS has taken a novel approach to cracking down on distracted driving by applying an already existing law called Arizona Statute 28-701A, which requires drivers to maintain a speed that is "reasonable and prudent" for the existing circumstances. As reported by the Arizona Republic, law enforcement officers in the state are now using 28-701A to crack down on distracted drivers under the theory that it is never reasonable to drive without looking, regardless of speed.

Arizona distracted driving statistics

A recent review by DPS showed that 11 percent of all traffic accidents in Arizona are caused by distracted driving. During the four-month review period, which ended on April 1, 2014, this equaled 1,163 Arizona crashes caused by distracted drivers. Of those, 380 resulted in injuries to at least one person and 10 resulted in fatalities.

Cellphone use and texting account for the largest share of distracted driving citations issued in Arizona, followed closely by distractions caused by passengers. Other common distractions for Arizona drivers include looking at crash scenes and other distractions outside the vehicle, using electronic media, reaching for objects and eating or drinking.

As the recent data shows, distractions can be caused by a wide variety of factors both inside and outside the vehicle. However, cellphone use by drivers is especially hazardous because it occupies the mind, eyes and hands all at once, and because it remains so widespread despite efforts by educators and policymakers to combat it.

Legal help for people hurt by distracted drivers

Distracted drivers who cause accidents in Arizona can be held financially liable to those who are harmed by their actions. If you or a family member has been hurt in a crash with a driver who you believe may have been distracted or otherwise behaving recklessly, be sure to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to recover monetary compensation for your losses, including medical bills, lost wages and other damages.