Saying sometimes parental admonitions are not always enough, Gov. Doug Ducey this morning signed legislation to make it illegal for the state’s newest drivers to use their cell phones behind the wheel.
The legislation, which takes effect July 1, 2018, bans not just texting but even making calls for those with a learner’s permit, as well as teens for the first six months of getting an actual license.
First-time violations can result in a $75 fine and having the new motorist’s restrictions – things beyond cell phone use like not driving after midnight and limiting the number of other teens in the vehicle – extended for an additional 30 days.
A second violation is a $100 fine with an extra six months of restrictions. And a third offense results in license suspension for 30 days.
The measure was approved over objections from some legislators, who said it should be up to parents to ensure that new drivers in the family aren’t texting or chatting.
Ducey said he understands that, having already raised two teen drivers and with a 13-year-old waiting in the wings for his chance to get behind the wheel.
“I had more than advice,” he told Capitol Media Services about his experiences with his sons. “I had a contract they needed to sign.”
But the governor said that goes only so far.
“The law is a teacher,” he said. And Ducey said there is a “tremendous learning curve” for new drivers.
“So, I’m hopeful that parents are advising their kids not to text and drive. Now, the law will reinforce that.”
Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she crafted the legislation to be the most politically acceptable, affecting only the newest drivers and only for six months. Prior measures going back more than a decade, which sought to impose a more encompassing ban, have proven to be non-starters.
But Ducey said he supports something even more expansive than what landed on his desk.
“I would have signed a bill that restricted texting from 16 to 18,” the governor said. “I think your rights, your ability to vote, serve your country begin at 18.”
While Ducey is driven around most of the time by his state security detail, he still gets out and drives a bit on the weekend. And the governor said that having teen boys has changed his own driving habits.
“I don’t want to talk as if I’ve been perfect,” he said.
“But as all fathers have experienced, as your kids are growing up and coming to driving age, you hear a lot from them about your driving habits,” Ducey continued. “So, I’ve slowed down. I’ve become safer.”
He also said that technology may help, with driverless vehicles potentially making it irrelevant whether the person in the front left seat is surfing the net.
“You can get a lot of productivity done,” Ducey said. “But that’s all in tests.”
Ducey’s signature means that Arizona will no longer be one of just two states without any laws about the use of cell phones by motorists.
According to AAA, 46 states plus the District of Columbia ban text messaging by all drivers. But while there is no such law in Texas or Missouri, both do ban teens from using cell phones.
With the change in the law, that will leave just Montana with no restrictions.