PHOENIX — Phones in hand, fingers tapping away, eyes darting up and down. Drivers stopping at green lights, weaving, rapidly self-correcting or worse.
"We’ve had an instance where we’ve lost a trooper that was killed, because a commercial driver was driving distracted,” Raul Garcia of the Department of Public Safety said.
In the aftermath of Officer Clay Townsend’s death, who died conducting a traffic stop in January 2019, his family pushed for change.
“I wouldn’t want any family to go through what our family has gone through,” Toni Townsend, Clay’s mom said.
The state listened, passing a new texting and driving law. As of Jan. 1, 2021, drivers can only access and use their phones if they are in hands-free mode. Two exceptions: Drivers can use their hands to access their device at stoplights and call 911.
“We really want to impress upon drivers common sense,” Garcia said. “What do I need to do to keep myself and passengers safe and healthy.”
Violators will be fined $75 to $149. And repeat offenders face $150 to $250 in fines. Right now troopers are warning drivers.
“Troopers here at DPS have stopped and warned and educated more than 15,000 drivers,” Garcia said.