Based on the latest data available from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), there were 121,345 reported accidents in the state in 2021. This total is higher by 22.45% compared to the overall number from 2020, and it translated into economic losses worth more than $20 billion for the state.
Out of these accidents, 51,633 involved injuries, and 1,180 resulted in deaths, with the fatality rate being 12% higher compared to documented numbers from 2020. The majority of crashes occurred within Maricopa County, where 86,687 were tallied in total.
Such statistics mean that people in Arizona experience car crashes and collisions at a relatively high rate. As such, there are a number of legal guidelines and traffic regulations that are put in place to help motorists avoid possible risks of accidents and address potential losses in the event that a car crash does occur.
The Seat Belt Law in Arizona
All citizens in Arizona who are at least 16 years of age and are occupying the front seat of a moving vehicle are required by state law to wear a seat belt. In addition, the driver of such a vehicle must ensure that passengers in the front seat who are under the age of 16 are wearing seat belts.
Children who are five years old or younger must also be secured in child safety restraints or booster seats when riding in a vehicle. These restraints must fall within the standards set by ADOT and federal laws.
Motorists can submit queries to ADOT or the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to learn which local government agencies can conduct inspections of their vehicle’s child safety restraint systems.
Certain exceptions apply to Arizona’s seat belt laws for:
A child who is transported to obtain medical care in an emergency.
An individual who has a written statement from a physician or practitioner preventing them from wearing a seat belt for medical or psychological reasons.
A vehicle where there is insufficient room to safely restrain all child passengers (provided that at least one of them has been secured).
An individual who is currently on duty as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service.
Those who fail to follow the state’s seat belt regulations must pay a fine of $10 per violation. This also applies to the parents of passengers who are under 16 years old and are riding in a self-driving vehicle if they fail to ensure that the passenger is wearing a seat belt.
Arizona’s Auto Insurance Requirements
Arizona requires all motorists to have liability insurance for their vehicles from firms that are authorized to offer policies within the state. The minimum coverage required by law follows the 25/50/15 format, or:
$25,000 for injuries and fatalities per person.
$50,000 for injuries and fatalities per accident.
$15,000 for property damage.
In addition, drivers may obtain uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to supplement their liability insurance. These options allow those involved in car accidents to pay for their medical bills if the offending driver has insufficient or no liability insurance.
It is not mandatory for Arizona motorists to obtain uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, though insurers are required to offer them. The minimum amounts for both options are also $25,000 and $50,000 for bodily injuries per person and per accident, respectively.
Arizona Traffic Violations and Penalties
Arizona drivers can face different types of penalties for committing moving violations, ranging from demerit points on their driver’s license to jail sentences lasting for varying periods of time. These come on top of any lawsuit or claim that an offender may face if such violations result in property damage or the injury or death of other people.
In Arizona, motorists are required to follow speed limits to avoid harming other pedestrians and drivers on the road or colliding with objects and property. Any driver who exceeds a given speed limit can be fined, while violations involving higher speeds may constitute a criminal charge.
The state’s defined speed limits are:
15 mph when approaching a school crossing.
25 mph when driving through a residential or business district.
65 mph in other roadways or locations.
In addition to these limits, a driver must move at a speed that is considered “reasonable and prudent” depending on the conditions, circumstances, and hazards that are present or may occur while they are operating a vehicle. These factors can be present in scenarios where:
A vehicle is approaching a railroad crossing, hillcrest, or intersection.
A vehicle is navigating a curve.
A vehicle is traversing a winding or narrow road.
Drivers can be charged with criminal speeding if:
They exceed 85 mph regardless of any specified limits.
They exceed 35 mph while they are entering a school zone.
They exceed posted speed limits by 20 mph.
Those who are found guilty of criminal speeding are charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor. They can spend a maximum of 30 days in jail and be fined up to $500. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department also adds three demerit points to their license; those who get more than 13 points in a year will have their license suspended.
Hit-And-Run/Failure To Stop
In the wake of a car accident, Arizona drivers are required to stop and remain at the scene of the crash or collision to notify and wait for the authorities, provide reasonable aid to the injured, and exchange information with those involved.
Those who do not adhere to these guidelines may be liable for a hit-and-run misdemeanor or felony, depending on whether any individual was injured or killed in the accident.
These are the penalties for hit-and-run offenses involving certain types of accidents in Arizona:
Accidents resulting in damage to non-vehicles/parked vehicles
30 days in jail
$500 fine with surcharges
License suspension and one year of probation
Accidents involving only property damage
Four months in jail
$750 fine with surcharges
License suspension and two years of probation
Accidents involving minor injuries
Two years and six months in prison (or more if there is a prior felony conviction)
License revocation for three years
Accidents involving serious injuries or death (driver is not the cause of the crash)
Eight years and nine months in prison (or more if there is a prior felony conviction)
License revocation for five years
Accidents involving serious injuries or death (driver is the cause of the crash)
12 years and six months in prison (or more if there is a prior felony conviction)
License revocation for 10 years
Arizona law imposes DUI charges on drivers based on their age and blood alcohol content (BAC) level, along with whether or not they are operating a commercial vehicle.
Drivers 21 years old and above receive a DUI charge if their BAC exceeds .08%.
Commercial drivers receive a sanction if their BAC is over .04%.
Those under the age of 21 are charged regardless of what their BAC is.
The potential penalties for DUI offenses are as follows:
Minimum of 24 hours to 10 days in jail
Base fine of $250
License suspension lasting 90 days to one year
30 to 90 days in jail
Base fine of $500
One-year license suspension
Minimum of four months in jail
Base fine of $750
One-year license suspension
In addition to these sanctions, drunk drivers incur eight demerit points on their license and are required to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. If they are suspected of drunk driving and refuse to undergo a chemical test, they can have their driver’s license suspended for one year on their first offense, and two years on their second or third offense.
Motorists may be found guilty of aggressive driving if they drive past speed limits and also commit at least two moving violations that endanger nearby pedestrians and drivers. Such violations can include improper passing, unsafe lane changes, and failure to yield or obey traffic control devices.
On a first offense, drivers who are charged with aggressive driving can be jailed for up to six months or fined at least $2,500. They incur eight demerit points, face a license suspension lasting for a minimum of 30 days, and must attend a Traffic Survival School course as a requirement for reinstatement.
A second or subsequent offense that occurs within 24 months of the previous one will result in a Class 1 misdemeanor charge and a 12-month license revocation, in addition to other penalties.
The difference between reckless driving and aggressive driving is that reckless driving only involves one traffic violation that puts other people's safety at risk, while aggressive driving involves more than one violation. Offenses that fall under reckless driving can include speeding, tailgating, swerving, ignoring traffic lights, and cutting off other vehicles.
Compared to aggressive driving, motorists face relatively lighter sanctions when convicted of reckless driving, as the latter is deemed a Class 2 misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of $750 with a surcharge, a jail sentence of up to four months, and a probationary period of two years. Offenders are also required to complete a Traffic Survival School course.
Those who have been convicted of reckless driving or any Class 1 misdemeanor and commit a second or subsequent violation within two years of their previous convictions will serve a jail sentence lasting for a minimum of 20 days and up to six months. They must also complete a Traffic Survival School course, pay a fine of $2,500 plus a surcharge, and serve two years on probation.
What To Do After A Car Accident In Arizona
In line with regulations from ADOT, citizens in the state have a number of steps to follow in the wake of a car crash or collision. These guidelines are put in place to help motorists mitigate any potential complications that can arise after an accident occurs.
Drivers must move their vehicles off a main roadway if possible.
Those involved must provide any assistance possible in addressing injuries on the accident site.
Motorists must contact the local authorities regardless of how minor an accident is. They must also notify emergency services and ADOT Safety & Risk Management if there are injuries or significant property damage involved.
The contact number for ADOT Safety & Risk Management is 602-712-7327.
All motorists in the accident must exchange names, addresses, vehicle registration numbers, and license information with each other.
In cases where an empty vehicle was struck and the owner cannot be located, a driver must leave a visible note containing such information for the owner to find.
In addition to these steps, drivers can start gathering information from possible eyewitnesses, such as pedestrians, other drivers, emergency responders, and civilians in nearby businesses. In the event that a driver later files a claim for damages, these statements can be used along with the driver's license and insurance information.
Reporting A Car Accident
Unlike some states, Arizona does not require private citizens to file an accident report. Instead, the state’s law enforcement personnel are assigned to document and submit a crash report if there are any deaths, injuries, issued citations, or property damage worth more than $1,000. However, those involved in a crash are still required to wait at the accident site for the arrival of police officers. Any motorists who leave the scene before officers arrive risk having their licenses suspended and may face Grade 2 or 3 felony charges.
Arizona’s Statute of Limitations
The civil court system in Arizona dictates that car accident victims have up to two years to file a lawsuit or claim for damages, beginning from the date of the accident. This covers cases where an accident results in injury or property damage.
Plaintiffs who fail to meet the two-year deadline will most likely have their claims or lawsuits dismissed if they try to file them. However, if a defendant leaves the state before a plaintiff can pursue legal action, the period of the defendant’s absence will not count toward the deadline.
Arizona also adheres to the discovery rule for certain cases. This rule stipulates that if a car accident victim did not discover an injury initially and only reasonably discovers it later, the statute of limitations will only begin counting down from the date of the discovery instead of the accident itself.
For Wrongful Death
The statute of limitations differs slightly for car accident cases that involve wrongful death; in these instances, the two-year deadline remains, but the statute begins at the date of a victim’s passing instead of the accident date.
For Mentally Incapable Victims and Those Under the Age of 18
Similarly, Arizona law delays the start of its statute of limitations for victims below the age of 18 and those who are of “unsound mind.” In these scenarios, the statute only begins once the victim has reached the age of 18 or once they recover from the disability that renders them mentally incapable.
Recoverable Damages in Arizona Car Accident Cases
A plaintiff in a car accident case in Arizona can recover both economic and non-economic damages, which are also called compensatory damages. They are calculated based on records such as medical receipts and documents detailing the financial losses that the plaintiff incurred after an accident. Non-economic losses are also assessed using the findings of a mental health expert and testimonies from a plaintiff’s family and friends, along with prescription records for drugs used to treat the victim’s physical and mental anguish following an accident.
Economic damages are:
Past and future medical expenses.
Lost wages due to a plaintiff being unable to work or being laid off from work due to injury.
Other out-of-pocket expenditures.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, may include:
Pain and suffering.
Loss of affection or companionship.
Loss of enjoyment of life.
In addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded to a victim if a defendant is found guilty of outrageous misconduct in a car accident. However, they are rarer in Arizona car accident cases than economic and non-economic damages. This is because the Arizona Supreme Court requires victims to prove that a defendant acted with “an evil mind,” wherein the latter party deliberately and consciously ignored the risks involved in engaging in reckless or dangerous behavior that puts other people in danger.
Compared to other states, Arizona imposes no cap on the total damages that a plaintiff can recover in a car accident case. However, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that a ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages greater than 9:1 is unconstitutional.
Fault and Liability in Arizona Car Accident Cases
In line with its “at-fault” mandates, Arizona decrees that offending drivers will shoulder the losses of victims in a car accident up to the limits of their own liability coverage. A driver’s fault is determined based on negligence, which in turn is assessed based on:
The driver’s duty of reasonable care (obeying traffic laws and driving safely).
The driver’s breach of said duty.
The driver’s breach resulting in injuries, fatalities, or property damage.
Motorists can breach a duty of reasonable care by committing a moving violation or traffic infraction. This, in turn, establishes their negligence and liability for the damages involved in a car accident case. These are examples of potential breaches of duty:
Making unsafe passes or lane changes.
Disobeying traffic signs and lights.
Driving while intoxicated or impaired.
Failing to yield the right-of-way.
Weaving in and out of traffic.
Once a claim or lawsuit has been filed, a defendant’s fault is proven using various types of evidence, including:
Proof of traffic citations.
Testimonies from eyewitnesses.
Reports from law enforcement personnel.
A victim’s medical records and statements detailing other financial losses.
Analyses from accident reconstruction experts.
Any videos or photographs that document injuries and damaged property.
Legal Resources for Arizona Car Accident Victims
Arizona Driver License Manual
The Arizona Driver License Manual helps motorists learn about road safety procedures and regulations as they prepare to apply for a driver’s license. It also informs citizens about the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department’s third-party services, including those that involve vehicle inspections and driver education.
AZLawHelp.org - Car Insurance and Claims
AZ Law Help, a collaborative project of the State Bar of Arizona and various legal organizations, has a section on its website that provides motorists with basic information regarding liability insurance requirements in the state. This section also offers standard insights into the elements and procedures that can help a car accident victim prepare an insurance claim.
Arizona Department of Public Safety - Department Records Unit
The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Department Records Unit can provide reports of accidents that have occurred on an interstate or state highway. Citizens can sign up on the department’s website in order to submit requests for specific reports, which are made available an average of two weeks from the date of their filing.
The Department Records Unit can also be reached at (602) 223-2230 or (602) 223-2236 for additional queries.
At Expertise.com, we're passionate about guiding people to find the best in life, whether they're researching how to start a small business, planning a home remodeling project, or discovering a new hobby.