Arizona is just one signature away from imposing its first-ever limits on the use of cell phones by teens.
On a 32-24 margin, the state House today gave final approval to legislation banning teens with a learner’s driving permit from texting or making calls from their cell phones while behind the wheel. SB1080 also extends that to the first six months they have their actual Class G license, which is reserved for the newest drivers.
The measure, which previously was approved by the Senate on a 24-6 margin, now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey.
Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said only that his boss will review the bill.
But the issue could be more personal for Ducey. He has three sons, two of whom are of driving age.
Thursday’s vote came over the objection of some legislators who want Arizona to remain one of only two states in the country with no limits at all on cell phone use by motorists. They said their fear is that once Arizona restricts what teens can do, it’s just a small step to extending that to adults.
Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, said he shares that concern.
But Stringer agreed to vote for the measure after speaking with Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who shepherded the measure through the Senate.
“She assured me last night when we spoke this is not the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, that she is only concerned with the Class G new driver, and this is not going to be an effort to expand it again and expand it again,” he said. That, said Stringer, was enough to get him to go along.
There also were objections from the other side of the issue, with some lawmakers questioning why the limits are so narrow.
“The problem I have with this bill is I think it’s a criminalization of young teenagers,” said Rep. Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix. “If we want to pass a texting bill, let’s pass it for all of us.”
Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale, said he agrees with that sentiment. Andrade, a certified locomotive engineer, said that’s why all use of cell phones is banned in his profession.
But he agreed to vote for the bill, saying, “This will save lives.”
Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said there’s a good reason to focus on the newest drivers. He said 11 teens die nationally every day while texting and driving.
More to the point, he said it’s important to force the issue.
He cited an AAA study, which found that 94 percent of teen drivers recognize the danger of texting and driving.
“But 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway,” Bolding said.
According to AAA, 46 states plus the District of Columbia ban text messaging by any motorists. But while there is no such law in Texas or Missouri, both ban teens from using cell phones.
That leaves just Arizona and Montana with no restrictions.