Category Archives: ADOT News

Phones Down Just Drive

Distracted Driving Awareness Week is Jan. 22-28

We all know it’s not a good idea to text and drive. Or fiddle with a navigation system for too long or doing anything else from the driver’s seat that takes away our attention from driving.

All of us see these dangerous occurrences on the roads we drive – even some of our closest family members and friends are guilty of it – and it needs to stop. Driving distracted is selfish but its consequences go far beyond the distracted driver, resulting in thousands of crashes and dozens of entirely preventable fatalities every year in Arizona.

Gov. Doug Ducey has proclaimed Jan. 22-28 Distracted Driving Awareness Week, making this a good time to remind people that safer roads are, literally, in their hands. Here are some things we can all do to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and not their phones:

  • If you know someone is driving, don’t text them.
  • If your smartphone has the capability, engage the “do not disturb while driving” feature.
  • Parents, set an example for kids and don’t reach for the phone when driving.
  • In addition to smartphones, keep your hand free of food, drinks, makeup, electric shavers, toothbrushes (we’ve all seen that one guy, right?) and anything else that pulls your attention from driving.

Did you know that taking five seconds to send or read a text, while driving 55 mph, is like traveling the length of a football field with your eyes closed? A lot can happen in that span. Please, that text can wait.

By John Halikowski / ADOT Director


Arizona Tax Simplified for Out of State Vehicle Purchases

Arizona residents who buy cars out of state now have a much easier way to pay the city and state use taxes. Working with the Arizona Department of Revenue, the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division is now able to accept these payments when the buyer registers his or her vehicle at an MVD or MVD Authorized Third Party office.

Prior to this partnership, customers would pay state tax in an office at the time of vehicle registration. They would then receive a statement from DOR in the mail several weeks later for city tax due. Under the new system, both state and city taxes will be calculated and paid when the customer registers the vehicle.

A web-based calculator available on AZDOR.gov to allows individuals to determine the amount of tax that will be required at the time of registration based on the vehicle owner’s home address. Click here: https://usetax.az.gov/Home/VehicleUseTaxCalculator

“The Vehicle Use Tax calculator is a tool our staff has envisioned for more than a decade, and they have worked very hard in the last several months when the partnership with ADOT began to make that vision a reality,” said David Briant, director of the Arizona Department of Revenue. “We are excited to partner with ADOT on this initiative to help taxpayers. This tool will provide a one-stop shop and help make buying a vehicle outside the state or country more efficient.”

MVD Director Eric Jorgensen said, “One of MVD’s roles is to collect these funds, and making that process easier for the customer is very important. This partnership helps achieve our vision of getting Arizona out of waiting in line and safely on the road.”

Approximately 2.6 million customers are served each year by the MVD and MVD Authorized Third Party offices, and of those about 22,000 register vehicles bought in another state.

ADOT Launches ‘ADOT Alerts’ Free Travel App

Free App Will Help Motorists Avoid Lengthy Delays, Other Highway Hazards

Available now for your mobile device: A free app from the Arizona Department of Transportation that will help you avoid unplanned and lengthy travel delays, and other serious highway hazards.

ADOT Alerts will help keep drivers moving on Arizona’s highways and away from potentially dangerous situations by providing information to drivers before they are trapped on a highway closed because of a crash or severe weather. Using geofencing technology, ADOT will send alerts to mobile devices with the app in affected areas and in advance of roadway decision points, giving the public plenty of time to choose an alternate route or delay their travel plans and avoid sitting in lengthy backups.

“We’re excited about ADOT Alerts because the app will help us quickly get critical information directly to motorists,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “With that information, travelers can make a decision to take a different route or stop somewhere for a bite to eat or stay where they’re at, and avoid sitting in a long backup because of an unplanned event, like a serious crash that closes a highway. We can also alert motorists to public safety issues, like wrong-way vehicles or severe weather affecting state highways.”

ADOT Alerts goes beyond providing daily commuting reports and travel times – ADOT already provides that kind of real-time information to drivers via overhead message boards and social media, not to mention the numerous traffic and navigation apps that also offer that kind of information. By using geofencing, ADOT can send alerts only to mobile devices with the app in an impacted area. That means affected motorists can make a decision to re-route or delay their travel plans long before encountering a traffic backup.

All alerts are sent by a public information officer at ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center to ensure they are accurate, critical in nature and appropriately targeted to a geographic area.

To get the most out of ADOT Alerts, enable Location Services and Push Notifications so you can be immediately notified of the most relevant alerts in your area. That way, whenever ADOT sends an alert to an area your mobile device is in, it will pop up on your device’s screen with a distinctive alert sound.

Users do not have to sign up, register or create a log-in to use the app. You remain 100 percent anonymous.

The app can be downloaded free of charge in Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Search for “ADOT Alerts” in the respective app store.

“The introduction of the ADOT Alerts app is one more way ADOT is working to promote highway safety and reduce frustrations for drivers,” Halikowski said. “We want drivers to be informed about issues, knowledgeable about options, and up-to-date on hazards. We hope this app – along with AZ511 and our social media outreach – will prove to be a major advancement in our efforts to connect with drivers.”

More information about the app can be found at ADOTAlerts.com.

 

What International Visitors Need to Know Before Driving in Arizona

Arizona residents know they need a driver license to legally drive in the state. Many international visitors wanting to get behind the wheel also have questions about how they can legally drive in Arizona.

Canada, Germany, South Korea and Taiwan are the only countries that have reciprocity agreements with Arizona. First time applicants with a valid driver license from Germany, South Korea or Taiwan are not required to take a written or road test. Canadian citizens are exempt from taking the road test but are still required to pass the written exam.

With Arizona’s driver license requirements in place to keep everyone safe on the roads, here are some of the most common questions international visitors have about obtaining a driver license in Arizona:

When am I required to obtain an Arizona license?

Arizona state law requires that you obtain an Arizona driver license and vehicle registration immediately if any one of the following applies.

  • You work in Arizona (other than for seasonal agricultural work).
  • You are registered to vote in Arizona.
  • You place children in school without paying the tuition rate of a nonresident.
  • You have a business with an office in Arizona that bases and operates vehicles in this state.
  • You obtain a state license or pay school tuition fees at the same rate as an Arizona resident.
  • You have a business that operates vehicles to transport goods or passengers within Arizona.
  • You remain in Arizona for a total of seven months or more during any calendar year, regardless of your permanent residence.

Out-of-state students enrolled with seven or more semester hours are not considered Arizona residents, regardless of employment. Active duty military personnel based in Arizona who qualify for exemption under the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003 are not considered Arizona residents.

Can I use an out of country/international driver license in place of an Arizona license? 

Drivers not required by state law to obtain an Arizona driver license may legally drive in Arizona using a valid driver license from another country. An international driver license or permit is not required, but is recommended. An international driver license can be printed in English and used in conjunction with a driver license from the other country. If an international driver license or permit is used alone, it must be issued by a country other than the United States. Vehicle rental companies may have additional requirements.

If I’m an international visitor, what documentation do I need to get an Arizona license?

Arizona offers a standard driver license and a Voluntary Travel ID. There are different identification requirements for each license. Most international visitors who are in the country for a recreational visit and aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents or are here for employment have one set of identification requirements. Those who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and have an employment authorization document issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have a different set of documentation requirements. Of course, everyone’s situation is unique, and you must determine which driver license is appropriate for you.

What happens if I don’t get a license?

If Arizona law requires for you to obtain a license, failure to comply may result in a citation by law enforcement.

ADOT’s Blue Logo Signs Benefit Businesses and Highways

State-Run Program Contributes to Highway Construction, Maintenance

Thanks to some creative thinking several years ago at the Arizona Department of Transportation, those blue logo signs along state highways are doing much more than helping you find a restaurant, gas station or hotel. They’re helping fund highway improvements while offering businesses a cost-effective way to promote themselves.

While many states use contractors to manage logo signs, Arizona is among those with their own programs. Operated since 2012 through Arizona Highways magazine, which is part of ADOT, Grand Canyon State Logo Signs has to date netted about $5 million for the State Highway Fund.

“We have approached this as a business without losing the community service aspect that is part of serving in a public agency,” said Bob Allen, chief financial officer of the Grand Canyon State Logo Signs program.

This fiscal year, the State Highway Fund may receive as much as $2.5 million from logo signs.GrandCanyonStateLogoSigns.com. In areas where demand exceeds the six available spaces on a sign, businesses are invited to bid for placements. After the bidding, bid amounts are posted to let future bidders know what to expect.

The program has been a hit. For example, just three companies bid for space on one Phoenix area sign in 2013. In 2016, 11 companies made bids. In 2017, there were 22. The total amount bid for the sign grew from $12,400 to $92,770 in just four years.

“Dollar for dollar, the blue freeway sign program is one of the most-affordable programs there is in the market,” said Jason Kveton, who operates Culver’s franchises in the Phoenix area. “I don’t think there will ever be a year we do not try to stay on the sign.”

And once businesses sign up, they stay. The program’s retention rate is 95 percent.

Mark Borenstein of Chompie’s Deli and Bakery said he likes having his company’s name on the signs and also likes that proceeds go to the State Highway Fund.

“It’s great to know that the money we’re spending is actually going to the construction of new roads or upkeep of these roads,” Borenstein said.

Beware of Flood Damage When Buying a Used Vehicle

Vehicles Damaged in Recent Hurricanes Can Make Their Way to Arizona

After hurricanes that caused widespread flooding in Texas and Florida, Arizonans in the market for used cars have even more reason to pay close attention to a vehicle’s condition and history, especially in private sales.

As happened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, vehicles damaged by floodwater are likely to find their way to Arizona and other states and offered to unsuspecting buyers.

If a vehicle is flood-damaged, the title should say “salvage” or “flood damage.” But scammers can and do fraudulently remove flood history from vehicle titles.

“We want to make sure potential buyers remain vigilant when looking at used vehicles and not sign anything until the vehicle has been checked over bumper to bumper,” said Willie Hall, detective sergeant with ADOT’s Office of Inspector General, which investigates fraud involving titles and vehicle sales. “Flood-damaged vehicles that have been repackaged and dressed up are a common scam after major weather events like what we’ve seen recently.”

Potential buyers should closely inspect vehicles and be prepared to walk away if things don’t smell right – quite literally in some cases.

  • Check out all of the vehicle’s nooks and crannies. Look inside under the carpet and floor mats and examine the trunk for dirt, silt and mold. Check under the dashboard and other hard-to-reach places as well. Criminals usually don’t clean all of those places. Finally, take a good whiff in those areas. Water damage leaves a distinctive smell.
  • Check the electrical and mechanical components. Water wreaks havoc on electrical systems, so check to see if any of those systems aren’t working quite right. Also check the engine for signs of rust or even random new parts. Get under the vehicle and check the suspension for water damage. Any of those things could be a sign that you’re in danger of buying a flood-damaged vehicle.

It’s always a good idea to have any used vehicle you’re looking at buying checked out by a trusted auto mechanic.

A vehicle identification number can be used to obtain the vehicle history through an online service that may charge a fee. This check can uncover a vehicle’s status as “salvage” or “non-repairable,” as well as maintenance problems, collisions, insurance claims and titles issued in other states.

Generally speaking, when it comes to buying a used vehicle in a private sale, it’s important to take the time and ask lots of questions. There are no dumb questions in a big purchase like this. If the seller is acting suspiciously, being evasive or uncooperative, walk away. Take the time to find the right purchase.

Additional tips can be found on ADOT’s website at azdot.gov/CarBuyingTips.

Seek help if you’ve been scammed. ADOT is here to help victims of fraud involving vehicle titles, registrations and driver licenses. Call our 24-hour fraud hotline at 877.712.2370 or email fraud@azdot.gov.

Feds and MVD Partner to Make E-Verify More Secure

The E-Verify Process Just Got More Secure for Arizona Employers

The Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that makes it possible for DHS to verify the validity of driver’s license and ID cards against the MVD database.

The Records and Information from DMVs for E-Verify (RIDE) initiative is an enhancement to E-Verify that verifies the validity of driver’s license and ID card information by matching the data entered by employers against participating state motor vehicle department records. Approximately 80 percent of E-Verify cases use a driver’s license or ID card as proof of identity, making RIDE a critical tool to the program.

With this agreement, when an employee presents an Arizona driver’s license or ID card for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification during the hiring process, E-Verify employers will now have the added benefit of confirming that identity document issued by the MVD is genuine. The employer does not see the MVD record, but will receive a match or no match response from E-Verify.

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 to data from DHS and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. Additional partnerships such as RIDE allow for the verification of other documents which are acceptable for the Form I-9 process. RIDE enables two-part verification by validating the information on select identity documents issued by the Arizona MVD in addition to the existing employment authorization check.

“The Arizona Motor Vehicle Division joined this partnership to help employers gain added assurance that their newly hired employees meet the guidelines required by federal law,” said MVD Director Eric Jorgensen.  “We’re very pleased to help streamline this process for Arizona employers.”

For more information about E-Verify and RIDE visit: www.uscis.gov/e-verify

ADOT Advances Wrong-Way Detection With $3.7 Million Project

State Transportation Board Approves I-17 Pilot for Alerting Public of Wrong-Way Vehicles


PHOENIX – A $3.7 million project to construct a first-in-the-nation thermal detection system, which will detect wrong-way vehicles and alert the other drivers and law enforcement of them on Interstate 17, was approved Friday afternoon by the State Transportation Board.

Last week, Governor Doug Ducey instructed the Arizona Department of Transportation to accelerate the construction of this system in light of recent wrong-way crashes, which resulted in Friday’s vote.

Construction of the thermal camera pilot system is expected to begin this fall on I-17 from I-10 to Loop 101. ADOT is exploring ways to begin construction even sooner. Full installation will take seven months, and the performance of this pilot will guide further expansion.

The system will take a three-phase approach when a wrong-way vehicle is detected: alerting wrong-way drivers so they can self-correct, warning right-way drivers and notifying law enforcement.

Once operational, the system will use thermal cameras, warning signs for wrong-way drivers and advisories for right-way drivers along a 15-mile stretch of I-17. In addition, the system will automatically focus highway cameras on the wrong-way vehicle and send automated alerts to the Highway Patrol, helping troopers intercept vehicles faster.

On freeway ramps, wrong-way vehicles will trigger alerts, including illuminated signs with flashing lights, aimed at getting drivers to stop. The system will immediately warn other drivers through overhead message boards as well as law enforcement. Cameras in the area will automatically turn to face the wrong-way vehicle so traffic operators can better track it. On the freeway, thermal cameras placed at one-mile intervals will signal when a wrong-way vehicle passes so State Troopers plan their response and get out in front of the wrong-way driver, providing a faster response.

While ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety respond quickly to reports of wrong-way drivers, most incidents begin with 911 calls from other motorists. The advantages of this system begin with automatically alerting ADOT and DPS to wrong-way drivers at the point of entry and getting State Troopers to wrong-way vehicles faster.

Read full ADOT study here: https://azdot.gov/docs/default-source/about/wrong-way-driver-study-summary-15-447.pdf?sfvrsn=6

Route 66 License Plate Named Tops in the Nation

New Arizona Plate Gets Kudos From National Collectors Group

“Flagstaff, Arizona, don’t forget Winona… Kingman…” Arizona figures prominently in the lyrics to the iconic pop song celebrating the highway known as the “Mother Road.” Now Arizona gets even more attention because the new Route 66 specialty license plate has been named the Best New License Plate in the U.S.,

The honor, which will be formally recognized at a 1:30 p.m. ceremony Thursday, May 25, at the northwest corner of Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix, comes from the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA).

ALPCA has given the award since 1970. ALPCA members worldwide vote based on the overall attractiveness of the plate design and its legibility as a tool for public safety and law enforcement. This is the third time for Arizona to win this award. The general issue plate introduced in 1996 and the Centennial plate introduced in 2011 also received Best Plate Awards.

ALPCA’s President Cyndi McCabe stated, “I’m delighted to announce that the state of Arizona is this year’s recipient of ALPCA’s Best Plate Award for their historic Route 66 specialty license plate. The plate’s visually appealing retro design particularly resonated with our members for its tribute to the legendary Mother Road.”

The Route 66 plate was introduced in late 2016 and has been a strong seller among specialty plates. As of the end of April, more than 3,000 had been sold, and more than $51,000 had been raised to support preservation efforts for the highway that crosses iconic northern Arizona landscapes and historic communities.

Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division Director Eric Jorgensen said, “Route 66 carried more than cars, it carried peoples’ lives and millions of their stories. Even though its use as a major highway ended long ago, its ability to be an inspiration endures. We’re honored to be part of the effort to preserve this historic roadway by offering this award-winning plate.”

For more information about the MVD specialty plate program, please visit azdot.gov/mvd.

You can pick up a specialty plate easily at an ADOT Authorized MVD Third Party Provider

Authorized Third Party (ATPs) MVD Locations are contracted by the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division to perform driver license, title, registration, and other motor vehicle services. Most ATPs offer extended hours at convenient, statewide locations. They also have specialty plates!

Find an ADOT Authorized MVD Third Party Provider.

You Can Help Prevent Wildfires Along Highways

Tips Include: Don’t Drag Chains While Towing or Park in Tall Grass

Like a lot of Arizona these days, the hillsides along State Route 87 south of Payson look mighty green after a wet winter. But that didn’t stop a brush fire from breaking out last week after a vehicle dragging chains threw sparks off the roadway, backing up traffic as first responders addressed the blaze.

When warmer temperatures turn all that ground cover brown, there will be even more reason for precautions to prevent brush fires along highways.

“Everyone can help prevent fires,” said Jesse Gutierrez, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s deputy state engineer for statewide operations. “That starts with making sure your tires are properly inflated, being careful not to park over tall grasses and ensuring that chains aren’t dragging.”

During the winter and spring, ADOT crews mow vegetation along highway shoulders. Crews also remove brush, thin trees and spray fire retardant within the ADOT right-of-way to prevent fires and slow the spread of those that occur. But motorists have an important role as well:

1. Don’t park in tall grass, as the heat from parts under your vehicle can start a fire.

2. Make sure nothing is hanging from underneath your vehicle and dragging on the pavement.       

3. Dragging chains during towing can cause sparks. Never substitute parts when towing.

4. Check tire pressure before you travel. Exposed wheel rims can cause sparks.

ADOT participates in the “One Less Spark One Less Wildfire” campaign that the U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies launched to focus on the role drivers and homeowners play in preventing wildfires.