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Senate kills texting while driving ban

For the second year in a row, the Arizona Senate on March 2 shot down an attempt to ban texting while driving amid concerns about imposing too much government regulation.

The measure failed on an 11-11 preliminary vote. It would have prohibited writing, reading or sending text messages and e-mails while driving on a state highway. It would not have prohibited talking on the phone while driving and would have allowed drivers to type a name or telephone number to make a call.

Opponents of the measure acknowledged that texting while driving is dangerous. But they said they don’t like the idea of creating new government restrictions.

Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican, said it’s equally as dangerous for someone to fish around for the last ice cube at the bottom of a cup of soda, but “we don’t have special legislation to outlaw Big Gulps.”

Opponents called the bill “nanny state legislation” that tries to regulate how people live their lives. They said officers already can cite motorists for reckless driving if they’re caught texting.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Snowflake Republican, said Arizonans know it’s dangerous to text while driving and should be trusted to make the right decision.

Supporters said the bill is about saving lives. They said parents would be able to tell their children that texting while driving is illegal.

“It’s such a dangerous activity to be texting while you’re driving that outlawing it would seem to be a given,” said Sen. Barbara Leff, a Paradise Valley Republican.

The measure was supported by cell phone and insurance companies as well as hospital, police and firefighter groups.

In most of Arizona, only bus drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving, but the City of Phoenix in 2007 passed a texting ban for motorists.

Nineteen states prohibit all drivers from texting. A handful of other states prohibit teens or drivers with a learner’s permit from doing it.

Under the Arizona bill sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, a Tucson Republican, violators would have been subject to a $50 fine. If they were involved in an accident, the fine would have been $200.

The Senate last year defeated a similar measure by one vote.

Senators also beat back an amendment that would have banned all cell phone use while driving, including talking on the phone. That provision failed on a 4-14 vote.

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