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Distracted driving in Arizona and elsewhere killed 3,140 people in 2020: report

ARIZONA – Distracted driving is a deadly problem in Arizona, as well as the rest of the country, with new estimates indicating that 3,142 people died and another 400,000 were injured in car crashes in 2020 because drivers couldn’t keep their eyes on the road.

Unsurprisingly, the main culprits accused of distracting drivers are cellphones and other electronic devices, the Governors Highway Safety Association said in a report on data concerning fatalities and injuries related to distracted driving from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to the Safety Association, a nonprofit policy and lobbying group whose members represent highway safety offices in all 50 states, US territories and Native American nations.

Here’s what you need to know about Arizona laws:

In Arizona, drivers are not allowed to use portable electronic devices, such as cell phones, while driving. Hands-free devices are allowed, but texting is still prohibited.

School bus drivers are completely prohibited from using cell phones while driving, and new drivers receiving driving lessons and intermediate license holders under the age of 18 are also not permitted to use cell phones.

Distraction was listed as a factor in 15% of all police traffic accident reports in 2020, according to the report. Additionally, according to the report, in crashes where distracted driving was a factor, 566 non-occupants – pedestrians, cyclists and others – were killed in 2020.

The true toll of distracted driving may be higher, undermining efforts to address the problem as it creates false perceptions about the persistent and dangerous nature of inattentive driving, the report says.

The GHSA has several prescriptions targeted at high-risk drivers. Drivers of all ages are distracted, the report points out, but research confirms that teenage drivers aged 15-20 are more likely than any other age group to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction was a factor .

Many are linked to behavioral changes through education. Most Americans recognize that distracted driving threatens their safety, but nonetheless engage in activities that contribute to the problem — largely cellphone use, which the report calls “rampant.”

For example, 80% of drivers think chatting on a cell phone while driving is extremely or very dangerous, but 37% do it anyway. And nearly all drivers – 95% – say texting or emailing is extremely or very dangerous, but almost a quarter – 23% – admitted to having done so in the past past 30 days, and 34% said they read on a hand-held device while driving.

One recommendation that’s sure to catch the attention of young drivers in Arizona: graduated driver’s licenses that limit the number of teenagers who can be in a car at a time.

Let us know what you think in the comments: Should the number of teens allowed in a car with a teen driver be limited? Do you think a limit would make our streets safer?