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Arizona Goes After Teens Who Text and Drive with New Law

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What can be done about the ever-worsening distracted driving problem? Should laws be strengthened? Should all auto insurance companies force policyholders to use apps which monitor their phone use while driving? Maybe distracted driving should be a larger part of driver’s ed courses. Who knows? One thing’s for sure, though: something needs to be done. To try and cut down on rates of distracted driving, many states have begun strengthening the laws and penalties distracted drivers face if caught. In Arizona, a new law concerning in-car phone use goes into effect this week specifically targeting teen drivers. Is this only a problem among teen drivers, though?

Definitely not, but it can’t be denied that teens and phones go together like fish and water. Furthermore, teen drivers are less experienced than older drivers and are at risk of developing risky behaviors early. This new law targets Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) holders, which are most often teens. In Arizona, drivers between 16 and 18 years of age are issued these GDLs which are essentially provisional licenses which require the legal consent of a parental or legal guardian.

The new “Wireless Communication Restrictions” prohibit GDL holders from using any wireless communication technology – phones and other mobile devices – except in the event of an emergency or when using audible turn-by-turn navigation systems. If caught using their phones, GDL holders face fines and extensions of their provisional GDL period.

“GDL laws are about protecting teen drivers, giving them time to develop their driving skills in low-risk settings,” says Michelle Donati, spokeswoman for AAA Arizona. “Our hope is that (the new law) will spark a new dialogue about road safety with families and ultimately create safer roads for everyone.”

It must be noted that this law is only subject to secondary enforcement, meaning drivers can’t be pulled over for phone use alone and must be stopped due to another infraction. Is this new Arizona law too lenient, strict enough, or does it go too far?

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