Bill seeks to ban texting while driving - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Bill seeks to ban texting while driving

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Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011 10:12 am | Updated: 6:47 pm, Fri Feb 18, 2011.

Don't read or e-mail this story if you are driving.

It is against Phoenix city law and could become a statewide mandate beginning in 2012.

Senate Bill 1538 would make it illegal to write, send or read a written message on a wireless handheld communications device while operating a motor vehicle. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin (R-Tucson) and Sen. Don Shooter (R-Yuma), would make it a first offense, meaning police could pull drivers over for nothing else if it looked as if they were texting. The fine would be $50, $200 if the driver is involved in an accident.

Arizona would become the 31st state to make text messaging illegal for all drivers.

One Desert Vista High School student called it a "recurring problem" because students tend not to learn from the mistakes of others. They have to see for themselves.

"They understand the statistics and what it's about, but they don't think it would happen or affect them," Julia Thatcher said. "I've heard people say they get into an accident and they are texting or the person that hit them was texting. Then it teaches them because they see that it could happen."

It has been shown that using a handheld device while driving will increase the risk of the driver getting into a serious accident by 400 percent, according to a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A 2006 University of Utah study found in a simulation that drivers who used a handheld or hands-free headset were more likely to be involved in an accident than someone who was driving with a 0.08 blood-alcohol content.

Michelle Donati, public affairs supervisor for AAA Arizona, said the organization would like to see all 50 states impose statewide text messaging bans by 2013.

"We believe a text ban would save lives," she said. "Distracted driving is one of the biggest issues on the road today."

Donati said in a recent survey 90 percent of respondents approved of a text messaging ban. Texting while driving also received an average of 9.2 out of 10 from surveyors in terms of seriousness to all drivers. Only alcohol scored higher.

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