When I had my first child, there were very few, if any, laws regarding the safety of children within a vehicle. There were neither seatbelt nor backseat requirements for children, let alone laws that required kids of a certain age to be in a car seat.
In fact, I had to take my car into the shop to be specially modified so my child could be safe. I took the extra step because the safety of my child was my top priority. I got some strange looks at the time, but looking back, I am proud to be ahead of the curve. These days, the notion of driving with a small child not in a car seat seems almost preposterous and wildly unsafe. I believe that years from now we will look back at texting while driving and think the same thing.
As cars got faster and heavier, we came to understand how to more safely use these advancements by adopting laws to promote public safety through personal responsibility.
Arizona is only one of three states without some sort of statewide texting ban – 47 out of 50 states have some sort of law in place. It is past time for our state to catch-up, and Sen. Kate Brophy-McGee and Rep. Noel Campbell are helping to lead the way. HB2318, a bipartisan approach to solve this problem, promotes a safer use of technology by keeping a driver’s eyes on the road. States that have enacted hands-free laws, similar to what is being proposed here, have seen on average a 16 percent reduction in fatalities within the first two years of enactment.
HB2318 has passed the state Senate handily, but now it is trapped in the House of Representatives. The problem is that several more conservative lawmakers who are reluctant to use government authority to promote personal responsibility are attempting to block consideration of the measure by the full House. So, the bill languishes despite polling that shows 83 percent of Arizonans support the proposal.
I don’t believe in limiting the rights of our citizens or putting undue burden on them. But HB2318 puts the safety of others first. Under this law, Arizonans could still utilize their voice activated functions while driving and can physically use their phone when the car is at traffic light or in the case of an emergency.
Earlier this year, the driver who struck and killed a Salt River police officer on the Loop 101 was allegedly texting while driving. Unfortunately, we read far too often about fatal accidents that were caused by distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving caused more than 3,100 fatal crashes in 2016 and more that 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.
Right now, our citizens are currently faced with a patchwork of laws with some communities banning the use and others not. Across the state, more than 27 counties and cities already adopted some sort of cell phone use restriction on the books. Promoting public safety requires us to establish a statewide standard to ensure that everyone understands and operates under the same rules.
Please pass HB2318. It promotes public safety and personal responsibility. That’s a conservative goal and a conservative value.
Jan Brewer served as governor of Arizona from 2009 to 2015