Last week, Coconino County’s Board of Supervisors enacted a cellphone ban that makes talking and texting while driving a primary offense in the county. Drivers can still use their phones hands-free using voice command or Bluetooth. Drivers can also use handheld devices to make emergency calls to law enforcement, doctors, hospitals, and ambulance corps and can talk and text while driving on private property or while pulled off to the side of the road.
Coconino County joins Phoenix and Tucson in banning handheld cell phone use in lieu of a statewide ban. The county has actually been considering a cell phone ban for the past four years but was hoping that the state legislature would pass a law banning cell phone use while driving. However, Arizona is one of five states that still does not have such a law. The only statewide ban applies to school bus drivers.
Coconino County’s ban applies to all roadways inside the boundaries of the county, which includes parts of Interstates 40 and 17 and Flagstaff, the county’s largest city. However, the Flagstaff city council can opt out of enforcing the ban within the city limits if they choose, which could be likely in Flagstaff, even though distracted drivers cause about 8% of all accidents in the city. Based on lack of interest in similar bans the city council has considered, Mayor Jerry Nabours isn’t sure the city will enforce the ban, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.
While the ban takes effect on May 22, drivers in Coconino County will have a 6-month grace period during which police officers will give only a warning to drivers pulled over for talking or texting on their phones. Once the grace period ends, drivers will be ticketed for using their cellphones while driving and will face a fine of $100. The fine increases to $250 if drivers cause a crash as a result of handheld cell phone use.