Driving Laws in California Vs. Arizona

By Mark Nero
California and Arizona have dissimilar driving laws.

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California and Arizona are neighboring states, with California bordering Arizona to the west. Vehicle traffic between the two states is common, particularly during the summer when many Arizonans travel west to escape the heat. But despite sharing a border, the two states have dissimilar similar driving laws, with California's being stricter in certain ways, and Arizona's stricter in others.

Speed Limits

The maximum speed limit on most California highways is 65 miles per hour. On certain highways, however, the limit is 70 MPH. On two-lane undivided highways, the speed limit is 55 MPH. California also has a basic speed law, which requires drivers never to drive faster than is safe for the current conditions. For example, inclement weather, road construction and the presence of pedestrians or bicyclists in the area are conditions under which the basic speed law applies. In Arizona, the state maximum speed limit is 85 MPH, but on main highways the limit is 65 MPH. On other highways throughout the state, the limits vary from 55 MPH to 75 MPH.

Auto Insurance

In California, vehicle insurance is mandatory. The lowest type of coverage allowable is liability insurance, which compensates a person other than the policyholder for personal injury and property damage. The minimum amount of coverage for private passenger vehicles in California is $15,000 for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to multiple people and $5,000 for property damage. In Arizona, bodily injury and property damage coverage are mandatory. The minimum coverage allowed in the state is $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $10,000 per accident for property damage.

Cellular Phone Usage

California law doesn't prohibit the usage of cellular phones while driving a vehicle as long as the driver is over the age of 18 and is using a phone with a hands-free device. Usage of hand-held phones while driving is banned in the state. In Arizona, a law is on the books that bars distracted motorists from operating a vehicle. It's up to the law enforcement officer's discretion in each case as to whether to a cellular phone is being a distraction and whether or not to issue a ticket. In both states, it's illegal to use a cellular phone to write or send text messages while driving.

Window Tinting

California law states that the windshield, front driver's side and passenger's side windows cannot receive any after-market tinting unless the material is clear, colorless, transparent and specifically used for the purpose of reducing ultraviolet rays. Also, if the rear window is tinted, the vehicle must have outside rear-view mirrors on both sides. In Arizona, the front windows can be tinted, but the tint must allow 33 percent of outside light in the vehicle and have a luminous reflectance of 35 percent to be legal.

DUI

In California, the legal definition of driving under the influence is having a blood-alcohol content level of 0.08 percent, the same as in Arizona. However, the penalties differ in each state. In California, offenders can receive up to 96 hours in jail and a fine of between $390 and $1,000. In Arizona, the punishment for a DUI conviction is a minimum of 10 days in jail and a fine of at least $1,200. Offenders also must complete an alcohol screening, education or treatment program, perform community service and have their car fitted with an ignition interlock device.

About the Author

Mark Nero has been a professional journalist since 1995 and has written for numerous publications within and outside the U.S. His work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "San Diego Union-Tribune" and "Los Angeles Daily News" among others. Nero studied communications at San Diego State University.

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