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Senator revives effort to ban texting while driving

A Democratic senator is trying to revive efforts to ban text messaging while driving. The idea for a statewide ban on texting while driving was first floated unsuccessfully last year after the city of Phoenix passed a similar ordinance. A bill to ban the practice was introduced in the House this year, but it was never heard in committee.

On May 13, Sen. Charlene Pesquiera, a Democrat who represents Oro Valley, was set to offer the legislation as an amendment to a bill that would revise the Arizona Department of Transportation's rule-making requirements.

But the bill was taken off the floor calendar, with the intention to take it up at another time.

"Driving while sending text messages is a dangerous practice that our current state laws do not adequately address," Pesquiera said. "Our law enforcement officers statewide should have the ability to cite people for this particular type of behavior."

In a statement, Pesquiera cited a statewide Cronkite-Eight Poll conducted last year, which showed that 87 percent of voters surveyed favored a statewide ban on texting while driving. Pesquiera said the amendment also has the support of AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

"This is a change the majority of Arizonans and cellular providers believe is necessary. It is time for this Legislature to step up and make our roads safer," she said.

Under the amendment, violators would face up to $250 in fines if the vehicle they were driving was involved in an accident.

But the amendment exempts sending a text message to law enforcement during an emergency.

The law would have a phase-in period. Violators would be issued verbal warnings until January 1, 2010.


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