Arizona Driving Laws vs. CA: What’s the Difference?

a person texting and driving

Did you recently move from California to the Grand Canyon State? If so, you are not alone. From 2016 to 2020 alone, around 64,000 California residents relocated to Arizona.

Moving to a new state comes with new rules and regulations, among them being driving laws. Moving to Arizona is no exception. We have many unique road rules you won’t find in California or anywhere else, for that matter.

Understanding Arizona driving laws is critical to keeping yourself and your loved ones, as well as other drivers, safe on the road. That is why we’re bringing you this guide.

What are the biggest differences between driving in California vs. Arizona? And how can you stay up to date with the state’s latest driving legislation? We answer these questions and more below, so keep reading.

Arizona Driving Laws vs. California Driving Laws

The biggest contrast between California and Arizona traffic laws are the state speed limits, car insurance requirements, and driving under the influence (DUI) definitions and punishments.

Speed Limits

The maximum speed limit in California is lower than it is in Arizona. The highest posted speed limit of all California highways is 70 MPH. Meanwhile, Arizona speed limits can reach up to 85 MPH.

Another difference is that California has a basic speed law, while Arizona does not. California’s basic speed law states that drivers should drive slower than the posted speed in unsafe driving conditions (e.g., inclement weather, construction, etc.).

Arizona does not have a basic speed law. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t practice caution during conditions in which the posted speed limit compromises your safety or the safety of others on the road.

Car Insurance Regulations

Arizona and California have very similar car insurance laws. Both states require drivers to hold liability insurance, including for bodily injury and property damage. The difference is in the property damage requirement.

In California, drivers must have at least $15,000 worth of bodily injury liability coverage per person injured and $30,000 per accident caused. Arizona’s bodily injury liability insurance requirements are exactly the same.

California places lower liability limits for property damage insurance. Drivers can have $5,000 or more in property damage liability coverage per accident caused. In Arizona, the requirement is higher at $10,000 per accident.

DUI Definitions and Penalties

California and Arizona define and penalize drivers who operate vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol differently. They also punish this crime dissimilarly.

In California, you can only get a DUI for driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater. Arizona does not tolerate a BAC of more than 0.0%. You can get a DUI for having any amount of alcohol in your system.

California is also easier on DUI penalties. You may serve up to 96 hours of jail time or pay $390–$1,200 in fines. If you get a DUI in Arizona, you must spend at least 10 days in jail and pay a fine of $1,200 or greater.

The Stupid Motorist Law in Arizona

One of the most unique laws you will come across when driving in Arizona is the so-called Stupid Motorist Law. Arizona is the only state in the US that has this law.

Under this state law, you may have to pay for a rescue vehicle’s services under certain circumstances. For example, if you ignore barricades or signage on a flooded road and get stranded, you will have to reimburse the city.

If you require other public services, such as a fire truck or paramedics, you may have to pay for that, too. You must also pay a fine on top of the reimbursement costs for violating this statute.

Arizona Driving Traditions and Customs

There are also some unique driving customs in Arizona to be aware of. Here are the top three driving traditions you need to consider when you move to the Grand Canyon State.

Roundabouts

If you live in or visit a smaller Arizona town, you have no doubt come across a roundabout. Also known as travel circles, these unique roadways reduce the need for expensive traffic lights.

Roundabouts are more common in Europe than in the US. So, if you don’t know how to use one, you are certainly not the only one. The best way to use a roundabout is to follow the posted speed limit and yield to oncoming traffic.

If you want to turn right off the roundabout, use the first exit lane. If you want to go straight or turn left, use the second and third exit lanes, respectively.

Cell Phone Use

Arizona banned the use of cell phones behind the wheel in 2019. The law went into full effect at the beginning of 2021. You may now receive a fine for texting while driving.

Fines depend on the number of offenses. For example, a first offense might earn you a $75 fine or up to $149. Any additional violations of this driving law can earn you $150–$250 in fines per offense.

The only exception to this rule is if you use your phone in hands-free mode. But even this exception is subject to law enforcement’s discretion.

Share the Road

Cars and trucks are not the only vehicles that operate on Arizona roads. You may also come across motorcycle drivers, bicyclists, and even horseback riders while driving in the Grand Canyon State.

According to Arizona laws, all of these vehicles have equal rights to the road. As such, you must yield to these unconventional vehicles as you would to normal drivers.

The goal of all Arizona roadway laws is to keep you and your fellow drivers as safe as possible.

Need a First-Time Arizona Driver’s License?

Arizona driving laws are much different than the rules you are used to in California. It is essential to familiarize yourself with these differences and stay abreast of new regulations coming out that affect you.

Do you need a new Arizona driver’s license? GG&D Motor Vehicle Services can help you get a license and learn more about driving in Arizona. Find a location near you and get your driver’s license today—we take walk-ins!

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GG&D Motor Vehicle Services, LLC was a founding member of the 3rd Party Motor Vehicle Association. We offer vehicle title transfers, license plate replacement, motor vehicle registration, duplicate titles, notary services, temporary permits and other MVD Arizona services. GG&D has locations in Phoenix, Glendale, and Mesa. Find a location near you!

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