Distracted Driving Causing Crashes in Arizona, but Cell Phones Not the Biggest Cause

People who text and drive are notoriously bad drivers, but according to recent crash statistics, most accidents caused by distracted driving don't involve cell phone use.

As part of Distracted Driving Awareness month, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) released the results of car accident information they collected from November 2013 to April 2014.

According to DPS' information, of the 10,166 total crashes in that time period, 1,163 were distracted driver crashes (around 11 percent). Ten people were killed and 380 were injured as a result of distracted driving.

"These numbers are saddening and are the exact reason why DPS is committed to enforcing existing laws on driving behavior related to distracted driving," the DPS report says.

Although cell phone use typically comes to mind when discussing distracted driving, it's not the leading cause of distracted driving accidents. "Outside distractions" was the leading cause, accounting for over 22 percent of the accidents. Reaching for objects within the vehicle was the second cause, at around 11 percent, followed closely by cell phone use, also around 11 percent, as the cause of 127 crashes.

States across the nation have been cracking down on distracted driving with legislation in the last few years, but Arizona is one of five states without a statewide distracted driving law. As of now, Arizona school bus drivers are banned from using cell phones whilst on the job, and both Phoenix and Tucson implemented fines for texting while driving. But even so, awareness rather than laws may be the key to preventing distracted driving.

"Although [Arizona] has DUI laws, we still have folks that get behind the wheel impaired," DPS spokesman Raul Garcia says. "The [distracted driving] laws help for having a specific violation to write, but I can't speak to laws specific to Arizona because they don't exist."

Although legislation addressing distracted driving has been introduced in Arizona, many of the bills have failed in the past. Only one of the five bills introduced this session, HB 2359, is still alive. The bipartisan-backed HB 2359 would ban drivers with learner's permits from using cell phones while driving, as well as in the first six months of receiving a driver's license.

The bill passed out of the House, and is currently awaiting a Senate vote.

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Sarah Dinell
Contact: Sarah Dinell