Gov. Janet Napolitano does not appear anywhere near as anxious as some of her Democrat colleagues to make it illegal to do texting while driving.
Napolitano refused Wednesday to say if she would sign legislation to ban the practice if the measure, set for debate next week in the Senate, reaches her desk. But the governor acknowledged some of the arguments by foes who said a new law is unnecessary.
“The law is clear — and has always been very clear — that when you get behind the wheel of a car you have an obligation to other motorists to devote your attention to the road,” Napolitano said. “And that law hasn’t changed.”
The issue, Napolitano said, is whether there needs to be new statutes further restricting what drivers can do while operating a motor vehicle.
“That needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
The measure being pushed by Sen. Charlene Pesquiera and Rep. Stever Farley, both Tucson Democrats, would impose a $100 fine on motorists who read, write or send a text message while the vehicle is in motion. That fine would be $250 if there is an accident.
Exceptions would be provided for drivers of law enforcement and other emergency vehicles, bus drivers and anyone who has a commercial driver’s license.
Opponents of the measure awaiting Senate action have argued that trying to type out a message on the keyboard of a cell phone while driving may be no more hazardous than a host of other activities motorists engage in — changing CDs, eating, drinking and putting on makeup, none of which would be banned.
The proposal, if it becomes law, would not affect Napolitano — at least not immediately. She is chauffeured everywhere by her security detail.
But the governor said she would never engage in those kinds of activities anyway.
“Here’s the plain fact of it: You’re right, I haven’t driven for a number of years,” Napolitano said. “But when I drove, I drove.”