Senate gives preliminary OK to bill banning texting while driving
The state Senate gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill that would outlaw text messaging while driving and hit offenders with a minimum fine of $50.
Two days after SB 1344, authored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, foundered in the Senate Committee of the Whole, the panel endorsed the bill 17-11. A final vote by the full Senate would send the measure to the House.
"Young people think they're indestructible, but this will help the parents try to save their children's lives," Melvin said. "And that's the sole motivation of the bill."
Melvin said he was confident the bill would make it out of the Senate. Last year, the full Senate shot down the same bill by Melvin on the floor.
SB 1334 would impose a civil penalty of $50 if the violator isn't involved in an accident and a $200 penalty if the violator is involved in an accident.
Linda Gorman, director of public relations for AAA Arizona, said that Melvin's bill is part of a nationwide initiative by AAA to ban texting while driving in every state by 2013.
"Texting while driving statistics are hard to get at, but distracted driving in general causes anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 crashes a day in the United States," Gorman said. "We look at it as the mother of all distractions."
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, who voted against the measure, said he doesn't see how the bill "just feel-good legislation," noting that Arizona law already makes reckless driving a misdemeanor.
"I just think it's ridiculous we have to run specialized legislation for each and every infraction," he said.
Gould also called a ban unenforceable, noting that a city of Phoenix ordinance against texting while driving has resulted in few citations.
"All you say to an officer is, 'I was dialing my phone,'" Gould said. "Then he says, 'Let me see your phone,' and you say, 'Let me see a warrant.' You essentially have to self-incriminate."
Melvin said the public is behind him, citing strong support for the bill in meetings with constituents.
"People are saying several things," Melvin said. "One, 'I'm in support of the bill,' and two, 'I want to know how my legislator voted, and they better have voted in favor of it.'"