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Thu, Oct. 17

Editorial: Why wait to implement ban on texting while driving?

Surrounded by victims’ families, Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday, April 22, 2019, signed a bipartisan, legislative effort to ban texting while driving, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

But why wait?

That is the big question that many people have been asking Prescott News Network and posting across myriad social networks.

More than a year and a half? Yes and no.

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who has championed the cause in one way, shape or form for years – and said she is “excited to see it move forward” – told the Courier on Tuesday the delayed effect was put into the legislation early “to get enough votes on board.”

But more than that, waiting until 2021 allows two important things:

• Time for cities and towns to modify their ordinances that they have in place to come into line with the state’s measure; “because people will possibly get fines,” she said.

The state’s fines, by the way, are less than some of the ordinances that are in place in Yavapai County and the tri-city area.

• More so, it gives everyone time to “get the word out that we’re a no-texting state, so nobody will be surprised,” Fann added.

Ducey’s spokesman, Patrick Ptak, echoed Fann sentiments. He told the Courier: “The legislature’s intent was to provide a period of time with which to educate the public on the new law. But the message of this bill is clear: if you’re driving, don’t touch your phone.”

And that’s where the “no” – we don’t have to wait a year and a half – comes in.

Police and state troopers can now issue warnings, and Yavapai County and area government ordinances banning texting while driving are still in effect. You can and will get a ticket here. So, in every practical sense, then, the law is in effect.

And it gets better.

Still before the governor is a companion bill that outlaws distracted driving.

Ducey is waiting and researching whether or not to sign that bill into law, he said Monday. It would make illegal practically anything that takes your eyes or attention off the road.

It could go into effect this summer.

These changes were needed long ago, but the time has come.

As Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, said: “This is not Republican, this is not Democrat … This is public safety, this is public health.”

For the record, it was the 13th time similar legislation has been introduced.

Unlucky thirteen?

No, the luck for those who escape unpunished has finally run out.

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