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Senate passes bill outlawing texting while driving for teens

Senators today passed legislation to prohibit young drivers from texting or surfing the internet on their cell phones while driving.

The Senate already approved a similar measure back in January, but that legislation got stuck in a House panel.

To get around it, senators approved a “striker” to House Bill 2348, which was advancing in the Senate.

The amended bill, which now contains provisions from the Senate measure that languished in the House Judiciary Committee, sailed through by a vote of 18 to 11.

The proposal now goes back to the House, which must also approve it.

The effort to specifically target teen drivers is a much narrower version of earlier proposals to ban texting and using cell phones while driving for all Arizonans.

The prohibition applies to minors who have been granted an instruction permit or a limited driver license.

The idea is to avoid distraction for teenagers during their most vulnerable period — when they’re still inexperienced drivers.

AAA Arizona, which is backing the measure, said cell phone use coupled with inexperience behind the wheel can be a “deadly combination.”

Proponents have been fighting — and failing — to get the broader legislation passed since 2007.

Just last month, the House approved and then quickly retracted their vote to advance legislation to outlaw texting while driving.

Interestingly, opponents and critics agree about the dangers of texting while driving. Both sides view it as irresponsible.

But critics question whether a law to restrict texting while driving is enforceable. They ask how a police officer would know a person is texting while driving without asking for a driver’s cell phone — which they say is illegal without a warrant.

They also view the legislation as a nanny-state bill, which takes away individuals’ abilities to be personally responsible.

But supporters argue that texting or surfing the internet while driving is plain dangerous, and while people should be personally responsible for their social behaviors, it is an action that has caused deaths and injuries.

HB2348 only bans the use of wireless devices for drivers with a class D or G license.

Under the bill, a violation carries a fine of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and — $100 plus a 30-day drive license suspension — for a third violation.

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(Photo by Luige del Puerto/Arizona Capitol Times)

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