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Fri, Jan. 24

Editorial: Texting while driving ban already overdue

We have already trumpeted in this space the virtues of April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, to raise awareness for motorists that doing anything other than paying strict attention to the road is asking for trouble.

Early in March we told you about the failure of Rep. Karen Fann's 2014 bill, HB2359, to ban teens from texting while driving in the first six months of having their license - when they are least experienced behind the wheel. It joined dozens of bills over the years on the topic of banning hand-held phone calls or texting that state lawmakers have thrown in the trash.

Remember also Stacey Stubbs of Chino Valley, who was one of the first in our state to die this way. In 2007, when she died in a head-on crash as a result of a driver whom police believe was texting.

And - bear with us - recall that the state of Arizona has not feared backlash from attempts to make the federal government enforce its laws, such as on the issue of immigration and the border with Mexico. Our legislators, when presented with the fact that the U.S. government is not doing its job, have opted to do the job for them.

While that has resulted mostly in lawsuits and state's rights debates, the theory is sound: the smaller government can pass legislation or ordinances to fill in the gaps where the bigger brother does little or nothing.

Well, since state legislation to limit using cellphones and texting while driving has not been successful, do not be surprised to learn that our neighbors to the northeast - Coconino County - have stepped up where the state would not.

Coconino County supervisors this week approved an ordinance that generally bans texting and making calls with cellphones and other electronic devices while driving, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

County officials there say the ordinance is an attempt to foster public health and safety by curbing distracted driving. Along with an exception for hands-free devices, the ban doesn't apply in emergency calls to police or fire departments or to a hospital, doctor's office or ambulance service. The ordinance takes effect May 22.

And what about the state? Supervisors Chairman Matt Ryan said Coconino County officials postponed advancing an ordinance in hopes that the Arizona Legislature would pass a statewide law.

An appropriate take on the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month theme and message to the state would be: "What were you thinking?"

Yavapai County officials should consider following Coconino's lead.

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