Fact Finders: Arizona’s “Stupid Motorist” Law

Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 6:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -Our first responders are getting ready for Monsoon, especially because they know not everyone will play it safe. Arizona has a law on the books that makes you responsible for rescue costs if you drive onto a flooded road that’s been barricaded.

The so-called ‘Stupid Motorist Law” says public agencies that have to rescue a driver or passenger can charge up to two thousand dollars - not to mention your insurance may not help with that.

But the law is rarely enforced. 13 News Fact Finders asked Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos why.

“I don’t want to see someone stuck in a wash sitting there thinking, ‘that’s expensive, I can’t afford that, I’m going to take my chances and try to swim out of this,’ and then they drown,” Nanos said. “So as far as I know, we’ve never used that law, and as long as I’m sheriff, I just won’t do it.”

In recent years, fire departments, law enforcement, and volunteers have been rushing to unusually high numbers of rescues in Arizona. Nanos says he’s come to expect a rescue every single day this time of year.

Since the law was passed in 1995, we know of just one case: back in 2005, a Cave Creek resident was charged for driving around barriers and getting stuck.

That doesn’t mean you won’t face any fines. You could still be cited for things like reckless driving or even child endangerment if kids are in the vehicle. The bottom line: law enforcement leaders don’t want anyone who can’t afford help not to call for it. They just want you to think twice - if not about your own life, than about the safety of others in your car, and the rescuers who’ll have to help you if you try to cross a flooded road.

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