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Some teens could be banned from using phones while driving
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Some teens could be banned from using phones while driving

Lawmaker pushes bill for those with learner's permits, new licenses

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PHOENIX — Drivers under the age of 18 have enough to worry about behind the wheel without using cellphones, a state lawmaker contends.

Sen. John McComish, R-Ahwatukee, has introduced a bill that would ban those with learner’s permits and minors who have had their licenses for six months or less from using cellphones while driving. SB 1056 wouldn’t apply in emergencies.

“The most important enforcement is what this gives parents a tool while talking to their new drivers to say, ‘Look kids, it says in the law that for your first six months while you’re still learning how to drive don’t use a cellphone while driving,’” he said.

The Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee unanimously endorsed the bill Wednesday, sending it to the floor by way of the Rules Committee.

In addition to learner’s permits, McComish’s bill would apply to the first six months someone holds a Class G driver’s license, which is issued to those 18 and under. An offense would be a secondary infraction, meaning a driver would have to be pulled over for something else.

McComish said the measure builds on the Teenage Driving Safety Act passed in 2007. Among other things, the act added to the hours of training number needed for a new driver to receive a license, established curfews for young drivers and limited who young drivers can have as passengers.

“I think it’s one more step that will continue to help save lives,” he said.

According to AAA Arizona, 82 percent of young drivers have cellphones. Sixty-four percent admit to answering a call while driving, 52 percent admit to making a call while driving and 44 percent admit to texting while driving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths, and that drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

“Getting kids to focus on the task at hand, driving, as opposed to distractions like cellphones or texting we think is paramount to giving these kids the best opportunity to become safer drivers as they get older,” said Stuart Goodman, a lobbyist for AAA Arizona.

Forty-two states ban texting by new drivers, and 30 of those restrict cellphone use altogether.

The national group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety recently ranked Arizona’s laws ahead of only South Dakota’s, in part because of a lack of strict measures governing teen driving, distracted driving and seat belt use, among other issues.

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