PHOENIX — The family of a police officer who was killed when he was struck by a distracted driver watched as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2318 into law Monday, banning cellphone use while driving.
Ducey recognized the family of Salt River tribal police Officer Clayton Townsend at the signing event saying their bravery, advocacy and persistence played into the passing of the law. Family members of other people killed by distracted driving were also present at the state Capitol.
On Jan. 8, Salt River police Officer Clayton Townsend made a traffic stop on Loop 101 when he was struck by a passing car as he was walking in the emergency lane. The driver of the car who hit Townsend told investigators he was texting his wife.
Since then, Townsend's family has been urging lawmakers to pass a law that punishes distracted drivers, something they have failed to reach a consensus on for years.
Arizona Republicans have struck down bills restricting drivers' phone use for the last decade out of concern about creating a "nanny state" that overregulates people's behavior, according to the Associated Press.
Officers can begin citing drivers on Jan.1, 2021. Drivers who use their cellphones while driving will face a $149 penalty fee for the first violation and up to $250 for the second. Between now and then, you can be issued a warning for using a hand-held cellphone while driving.
Texting bans enacted in Arizona cities such as Tempe will remain in effect until 2021. The governor's office said the statewide ban will not be enforced on sovereign tribal lands where some tribes already have restrictions on cellphone use while driving.
Before signing the bill Monday, Ducey said it is common sense and it will save lives. Townsend's mother, Toni, said she sees the law as part of her son's legacy.
Missouri and Montana are now the only states with no ban on texting while driving