Studies by Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety conclude that Arizona is a dangerous state to drive in and that it needs significant reforms to their motor vehicle safety laws. According to car accident attorney John Phebus, human error and driver negligence are two of the most common causes of fatal car accidents. Enforcing stricter motor vehicle safety laws to protect Arizona’s citizens, could help prevent hundreds of crash fatalities each year.
Seat Belt Laws
One of Arizona’s most criticized lax motor vehicle law is their seat belt law. It is not legally required for adults to wear a seat belt while being in the back seat of a car and it is a “secondary offense” to not wear a seat belt while riding in the front seat. A secondary offense means that a police officer can’t pull you over for not wearing a seat belt. You would have to be stopped for another offense and once pulled over an officer can file a citation for not wearing a seat belt. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were 916 total crash fatalities in 2017 and in 290 of them passengers were not using a safety device. These statistics show why it’s important to enforce stronger seat belt regulations that could prevent these fatalities.
Arizona law only requires motorcycle riders under 18 years old to wear a helmet, but a newly proposed bill might change motorcycle safety laws. The bill with working title “motorcycle riders; helmets; fees”, proposes that motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear a helmet at all times while operating the vehicle. However, those who do not wish to wear a helmet can pay a fee when they’re registering their motorcycle, which counteracts the goal of improving safety for drivers. According to the proposed bill, law enforcement won’t be able to stop a motorcycle driver for not wearing a helmet. If the driver is pulled over on another offense and found not wearing a helmet, they can be subject to a $500 fine. Enforcing stricter helmet laws in Arizona is important to improve riders’ safety, as the NHTSA stated helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries in motorcycle accidents.
Booster Seat Law
Arizona has been criticized for its lenient child-restraint laws where children have to ride in a rear-facing seat until the age of one, compared to other states where the age limit is two years old. Experts say that children should ride in a rear-facing seat even after your state’s legal age limit, crash tests have shown children are safer in this position and modern car seats can accommodate them once they’ve grown. Nonetheless, Arizona has made some improvements to their car seat law, in 2012 they increased the age limit required for a child to ride in a restraint system from five to eight years old.
Progress in Improving Road Safety in Arizona
Texting and Driving Laws
Arizona is one of the last states to make texting and driving illegal. Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill on April 22, 2019 that enacted a statewide ban on the use of handheld cellphones while driving. The law prohibits the use of handheld devices while driving unless the device is in hands-free mode or used as a GPS. The bill doesn’t come into effect until January 1, 2021, which means that officers can issue warnings to drivers but not tickets.
Arizona motor vehicle laws still have room for improvement, but it is important to acknowledge the lawmakers that are working on making Arizona’s roads safer for everyone. Protect yourself by following safe motor vehicle practices by using a seat belt, wearing a helmet, and avoiding distractions while driving; even if Arizona law currently does not require you to do so.