Senate considering bill to ban texting while driving - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Senate considering bill to ban texting while driving

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Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2011 8:18 pm | Updated: 7:51 am, Fri Mar 11, 2011.

Arizona motorists could soon lose their ability to text that they're going to be late for dinner.

They would, however, still be able to call ahead. In fact, they even could watch a movie on their cell phones, play video games and even run a spread sheet calculation while barrelling down the road.

But that list of exceptions did not discourage Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, from pushing ahead with his legislation to ban driving while texting. He said something is better than nothing.

"The sole motive of this bill is to save lives,'' said Melvin of SB 1538. Violators would be subject to a $50 fine, with $150 added on if there was an accident.

The idea drew derision from Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City. Aside from all the exceptions of what drivers still could do with their phones, he said the measure is unenforceable because, absent a confession, a police officer will not be able to tell whether the device was being used for texting or something else.

"To which the officer then says, 'Let me see your phone,' to which the informed citizen motorist says, 'Let me see your warrant,' '' Gould said.

He said that's why the city of Phoenix, which already has such a ban, has had fewer than a dozen citations issued. But Melvin said that proves just having the law on the books is deterring motorists from pecking away at the keypad.

Melvin did agree to create an exception for motorists who find themselves stalled in traffic jams.

"People could go ahead and text to their heart's content,'' he said. But they could not whip out their phones if the only reason the vehicle isn't moving is because of a traffic light or stop sign.

The measure needs a roll-call vote before going to the House.

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