A.R.S. 28-914 provides in relevant part:
A. Unless a motor vehicle is parked or stopped pursuant to section 28-645, subsection A, paragraph 3 or section 28-851, a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a street or highway if the person does either of the following:
1. Physically holds or supports with any part of the person's body either of the following:
(a) A portable wireless communication device, except that a person may use a portable wireless communication device with an earpiece, headphone device or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication.
(b) A stand-alone electronic device.
2. Writes, sends or reads any text-based communication, including a text message, instant message, email or internet data, on a portable wireless communication device or stand-alone electronic device.
How can a mobile device or stand alone electronic device be used while driving?
28-914 does provide the ability to use a phone or the infotainment system in your car as long as you are using voice commands. The law also provides some exceptions to the prohibition on reading your screen. A driver may:
- Use voice-based communications to direct the writing, sending, reading or other communicating of any text-based communication.
- Use of a portable wireless communication device or stand-alone device when used in a hands-free manner for navigation of the vehicle, for use of GPS device, or for obtaining vehicle information or information related to driving the vehicle.
The law also provides an exception for using a mobile device or infotainment system for communication as long as such communication can be done hands-free, except a driver may use a hand to activate or deactivate the hands free communication. This exception would apply to something like pressing the talk button on your steering wheel, then using voice commands to make a call, and then ending the call by pressing the button on your steering wheel.
What does this actually mean for a driver?
The language of this 28-914 is broad. It says that a driver cannot physically hold or support a mobile device with any part of the body. This essentially means you can't touch the phone while driving unless they are stopped at a stoplight or a railroad crossing. If your phone falls on the floor while you are driving, wait until you are stopped to pick it up. If you get a text message alert while driving, don't touch that phone until you are stopped.
If a police officer drives by and sees your hand on a phone for whatever reason, you'll probably get a ticket.
Even though there are some exceptions, our position is: If you are driving, don't touch a phone or your car's infotainment while the car is moving. You can use the buttons on your steering wheel to make a call, if your car is so equipped. Sure, you might have an argument that you were touching something for purposes of navigation, but even so, odds are not in your favor at a civil traffic hearing. Moreover, if a police officer pulls you over for holding or touching your phone, you will still have to interact with a police officer and interacting with police officers should be avoided.
Consequences of a 28-914 violation
Fines. At least $75 but not more than $149 for a first violation, and at least $150 but not more than $250 for a second or subsequent violation. In reality, the fines a driver pays to the court will be higher than this because courts will add all sorts of ridiculous fees and surcharges to the base fines provided in the statute.
Part of the law states "a department or agency of this state may not consider a violation of this section for the purpose of determining whether the person's driver license should be suspended or revoked." This appears to mean this violation carries no points, as points are what the MVD uses to determine if they should suspend a driver's license. However, this violation also appears to be eligible for defensive driving school. It is on the list of approved violations shown on azcourts.gov. Historically only violations that carried points were on the list of eligible violations for defensive driving school, so this is kind of odd.
We are only just now seeing tickets for this violation. It wasn't until January 1, 2021 that police were able to issue tickets for this violation. We are just now starting to see some of these tickets, so we'll update this once we see how these are reflected on a motor vehicle record.
Potential extra consequences for a CDL holder
Above, we noted that "a department or agency of this state may not consider a violation of this section for the purpose of determining whether the person's driver license should be suspended or revoked." However, there is an exception: "Except as provided in 28-3312". 28-3312 categorizes a 28-914 violation as a "serious traffic violation" if it is committed by a CDL holder while driving a commercial motor vehicle. If a CDL holder is found responsible or guilty for two serious traffic violations within a span of 3 years, the Arizona MVD will suspend that commercial driver's license for 60 days.
Even though a 28-914 violation is eligible for defensive driving school, defensive driving school will not keep such a violation from showing on that driver's record. Moreover, if the violation is committed in a commercial vehicle, the CDL holder simply cannot take defensive driving school at all.