Arizona motorists remain free to let their fingers send text messages while they are trying to drive down the highway. On a tie vote, the Senate on Tuesday killed a proposal that would have made it illegal not only to compose or send text messages while driving but even to read them.
The defeat occurred even after the legislation was diluted somewhat to ensure that drivers who park by the side of the road to send texts would not be penalized.
This is the second year Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, has been unable to get the measure enacted. And this year, unlike last, he had the backing of every major cell phone provider in the state.
What he didn't have was the votes.
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said he doesn't question that someone who is texting may not be paying full attention to the road. But he said there already are laws that make it illegal for motorists to fail to control their vehicles.
Gould also questioned why this specific form of distraction was being singled out for special treatment when so many other things can be equally dangerous.
One, he said, involves drinking a soda - and not using a straw.
"You're driving down the road, you're trying to get that last ice cube out of the bottom of the cup and it's blocking both your eyes," he said.
"Clearly dangerous," Gould continued. "We don't have special legislation to outlaw Big Gulps."
But Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, said texting is different.
"It's not even like you had a cell phone where you can be talking and still looking up," she said.
"When you are texting, you're looking down," Leff continued. "You are not looking at that road. And there's no way that I can believe that anybody would think this is safe to be texting while you're actively driving your car."
Melvin's legislation, modeled after a similar Phoenix ordinance, would have subjected violators to a $50 penalty. That fine would have risen to $200 if the motorist was involved in an accident.