Originally Published: April 9, 2017 6 a.m.
From time to time during the legislative session we wonder what lawmakers are doing. We see proposals that seem self-serving or extreme.
But every once in a while we see a glimmer of hope dashed by flawed logic or influence. That’s what’s happening with bans on texting while driving.
We’ve established, previously in this newspaper, the need is there: arguably the first death in Arizona because of texting while driving killed a woman from Chino Valley in 2007.
Also, Arizona is not the first to grapple with this sort of proposal. In fact, text messaging is banned for drivers in 46 states and the District of Columbia, with two other states banning texting by new motorists.
As for those new motorists, the Insurance Institute for Highways Safety says 37 states and the District of Columbia restrict the use of cellphone by “novice drivers,” with 14 of those states and D.C. making it illegal for anyone to talk on a hand-held cellphone.
Further, despite the reluctance of Arizona lawmakers to act, several communities have enacted their own driving-while-texting bans, including Tucson, Phoenix and Pima County, among others.
Thus, it makes little sense when Rep. Phil Lovas, R-Peoria, who chairs the House Rules Committee confirmed last week he is refusing to give a hearing to a Senate-passed bill that would make the use of hand-held communication devices illegal for teen drivers.
That is the bill by Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, which looks to teach good habits to our newest or most novice drivers. It adds the restriction only for their first six months on the road, on top of a host of restrictions already in place (things like how many passengers are allowed in the vehicle and times they can be driving).
What’s most concerning is Lovas’ comment he attributes to other legislators, that “this is the camel’s nose under the tent when it comes to texting and driving.” Meaning, once Arizona enacts its first-ever restrictions, no matter how minimal, it potentially becomes easier to expand the law so that more people are barred from driving while texting.
Fann’s take: “The chair of Rules is a great guy, and I respect him and appreciate his stance. I hope he allows his committee to vote and for the bill to advance for consideration by the entire House body.”
Our take: No place exists where texting while driving should be allowed. People are dying, and will continue to die because drivers are distracted. Coincidentally, Lovas’ statement came just after 13 people died in Texas because a driver was texting while driving. Now, a statewide ban on it is sailing through the Texas legislature.
How many more must die in Arizona? We must start somewhere with this or, again, be a scorned part of this great country.