Governor signs Hands-Free AZ, advocates prepare for next phase

Governor signs Hands-Free AZ, advocates prepare for next phase
(Source: KOLD)

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Surrounded by lawmakers, law enforcement and loved ones of those killed by suspected distracted drivers, Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2318 into law on Monday, April 22.

Commonly known as Hands-Free AZ, the new law limits the use of cell phones for drivers across Arizona. The 48th state to join the union is now the 48th state to pass some sort of ban on texting and driving.

The new state law replaces more than two dozen local ordinances already approved in municipalities like Oro Valley and Tucson. It makes using a mobile device while driving a primary offense, meaning a member of law enforcement would not need another reason to pull you over for doing it.

Multiple bills with slight differences were brought before state lawmakers last week. Former State Senator Steve Farley said the one that is now law was the best choice.

He should know. Farley first introduced a hands-free bill back in 2007. Repeat attempts year after year were shot down by his fellow lawmakers.

“Sometimes it takes time and and persistence to fight for what is right." he said. “And we got it done.”

Farley considers himself part of the “we” even though he left office before this session. He said he’s been working behind the scenes to make sure current lawmakers were aware of the heartache felt by those families suffering from the loss of loved ones.

“I didn’t talk about it a lot because I didn’t want my own presence to be in the way," said Farley. "We needed to get this done. This has never been about who gets credit. It’s about saving lives.”

Look! Save a Life is the non-profit founded by former firefighter Brendan Lyons. A longtime advocate for Farley’s hands-free bills, Lyons pushed for similar restrictions on distracted driving in cities and towns across the state.

He shook Ducey’s hand Monday when the governor mentioned his work before signing the bill into law. A crash survivor himself, Lyons said this isn’t the end of the issue.

“Strong laws alone aren’t going to change behaviors,” he said. “It’s going to take a concerted effort."

That effort includes plenty of education and awareness, according to Lyons. That’ll be his new focus, while drivers have until January 1, 2021 to change their driving habits. At that point, law enforcement will start enforcing Hands-Free AZ.

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