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AZ Traffic Fatalities Up; Legislature Considering Distracted Driving Bans

According to reports in Arizona and across the country, the number of traffic fatalities – including the number of teenagers killed in motor vehicle accidents – rose in 2012. Many in Arizona place at least some of the blame on the lack of distracted driving regulations in the state. While many states nationwide have enacted laws banning dangerous distractions on the road, Arizona has not followed suit.

According to the National Safety Council, the number of people killed in auto accidents across the country increased by approximately 5 percent in 2012 – the first time those figures have risen since 2005. The NSC is estimating that 36,200 people died in motor vehicle collisions in 2012.

In addition, a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed that the number of teen drivers killed in auto accidents also increased during the first six months of 2012. Across the country, 240 16- and 17-year olds died while behind the wheel between January and June of 2012.

A similar increase was seen in Arizona during the first six months of 2012. During that period, nine teenage drivers were killed in car accidents in the state. During the same period in 2011, only two teenage drivers were killed in such collisions.

Would distracted driving legislation curb traffic fatalities in Arizona?

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Currently, Arizona’s distracted driving ban is limited to school bus drivers, who are prohibited from using any type of cellphone – handheld or hands-free – while on the road. Some researchers suggest that stricter distracted driving legislation could reduce the number of traffic fatalities in Arizona, particularly among teenagers.

Teenagers are the group most likely to be involved in an auto accident caused by distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 who were involved in a fatal accident were distracted when the collision occurred.

This session, a number of bills banning certain types of distracted driving were introduced in Arizona’s legislature. One bill would prohibit all drivers under the age of 18 and those who have only had a driver’s license for six months or less from using a cellphone while behind the wheel.

Another bill – that has yet to make significant progress through the legislature – would ban texting while driving for all motorists in Arizona. Both Phoenix and Tucson currently have ordinances that prohibit texting while behind the wheel. Other proposed legislation includes a bill that would ban all mass transit operators from using cellphones.

Distracted driving resulted in over 3,330 traffic fatalities in 2011, according to the NHTSA. In addition, another 387,000 people sustained personal injuries due to such collisions that year. As the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents is on the rise, many hope that Arizona will take steps to ban these risky driving habits.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, consulting with a skilled Arizona personal injury attorney will ensure your rights are protected.