Ariz. should be among 30 states currently prohibiting cell phone use by novice drivers - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Ariz. should be among 30 states currently prohibiting cell phone use by novice drivers

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Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2012 5:00 pm | Updated: 3:23 pm, Thu Dec 13, 2012.

We have all witnessed the odd behavior of inattentive drivers on our streets and freeways, only not to be surprised to see them talking on their mobile telephone or glancing up and down as they attempt to compose or read a text message.

While not excusing distracted driving at any age, perhaps the most shocking is when our youngest and most inexperienced drivers are the ones engaged in such dangerous practices.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicles are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths.

Not surprisingly, the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of novice drivers (16-17 years old) own a mobile telephone.

Moreover, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety identified in a 2010 survey that 64 percent of teens acknowledged that they answer phone calls while driving; 52 percent of teens admitted to initiating a phone call while driving; and 44 percent engaged in text messaging while driving.

For these exact reasons, I have introduced SB 1056, which prohibits novice drivers from using mobile communications devices during the Instruction Permit period and for the first six months after they receive their Class G driver's license.

This legislation is intended to broaden the progress made by the original Graduated Drivers License legislation, enacted in 1996.

It was further advanced by the Teen Driver Safety Act of 2007, which I sponsored, and which provided passenger limitations and nighttime driving restrictions on new teen drivers.

According to the most recent Arizona State Highway Safety Plan Report Card, those restrictions have likely made a contribution, among other factors, to a 56 percent reduction in fatalities among young drivers between the 2007 and 2010 timeframe.

While it is recognized that not all distractions can be eliminated, the bill focuses on the most egregious cognitive, visual and auditory distractions impacting inexperienced drivers.

SB 1056 will successfully increase the awareness of the seriousness of the issue among novice drivers; provides parents with additional tools to manage the driving practices of their teens; and strengthens the curriculum of driving schools and the publications released by the Motor Vehicle Division.

I encourage my colleagues to support SB 1056, which recently passed out of the Arizona State Senate with a 23-6 vote.

Thirty states currently prohibit the use of mobile telephones by novice drivers, and Arizona should be among them.

• John McComish, R-Ahwatukee Foothills, is a member of the Arizona State Senate. He was elected in 2010 and represents District 20, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills. He served on the Arizona House of Representatives in District 20 from 2005 to 2011. Reach him at (602) 926-5898 or jmccomish@azleg.gov.

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