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Ban on texting while driving passes Az Senate
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Ban on texting while driving passes Az Senate


A ban on texting behind the wheel came a step closer to becoming law Monday when the state Senate approved the bill, sending it over to the House.

SB 1334, authored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, passed 19-10 with bipartisan support. The same bill foundered on the Senate floor last session.

If the measure wins House approval and Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, drivers caught texting would face a $50 fine that would increase to $200 if they are involved in an accident.

Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, voted against the 2009 bill but said she changed her position this time around due to overwhelming sentiment in favor of it.

"This is one of those issues that is so completely supported by the public that I'm bound and determined to support it," she said.

A recent poll by AAA Arizona, which lobbied for the bill, found that nine out of 10 Arizonans support the ban. A bevy of cell phone companies, car insurers, law enforcement organizations and health care providers registered their support for Melvin's bill.

Eight conservative Republicans and two Democrats voted against the bill.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, called the measure unenforceable "feel good legislation" and said texting while driving is already punishable under Arizona's statute against reckless driving.

"What this bill really does is water down reckless driving to a $50 fine," Gould said, noting that reckless driving currently costs $250 and a possible 90-day license suspension. "The public does not realize this can already be cited under reckless driving, and I feel almost certain that they would not support this if they knew (that)."

Charles Heller of the gun rights group Arizona Citizens Defense League said he worries the law will serve as a pretext for a "fishing expedition that will probably be done via racial profiling." He said the effort expended on a ban should be spent on driver education and awareness.

"If someone is driving erratically, avoid them," he said. "Stay out of their way and let them run into a telephone pole and solve their own problem. Just don't be in their way when they do it."

Sen. Ed Bunch, R-Scottsdale, who voted for the measure, said he is no fan of creating a "nanny state" but added he doesn't see Melvin's bill as doing that.

"Sometimes in society we have to remind people what personal responsibility entails," he said. "It means not just being responsible for yourself but also for other people and not putting them in danger, and texting while driving is dangerous, plain and simple."

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