State lawmakers are moving to keep cellphones out of the hands of the newest drivers while behind the wheel.
But the practice apparently will remain legal for the other 5 million Arizona motorists and anyone else who drive in the state.
Members of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted 6-1 Tuesday to spell out that those with instructional permits cannot use hand-held devices for any reason at all. That includes not only texting but also talking on the phone.
SB 1080 also extends that restriction to those with a Class G license—the first license available to teens—for the first six months they on the road.
But Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, said he will not give a hearing this year to either SB 1049 or SB 1135, much broader measures.
The former, crafted by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would making texting and messaging using hands illegal for anyone behind the wheel, regardless of age. The other from Steve Farley, D-Tucson, also applies to all motorists but is more comprehensive, covering not only texting and messaging but also requiring the use of a hands-free device to make a call.
Worsley, however, said he wants to take baby steps.
"We're going to start and see how this goes,” he said, with SB 1080 covering only about 1 percent of those licensed in the state.
"I'm going to learn kind of what the issues are this year on this one,” Worsley explained. "And then we'll expand from there if it goes well.”
SB 1080 is being shepherded through the process by Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who sponsored similar measures in prior years when she was in the House.
Fann said what she's trying to do is not a big stretch. She pointed out there already are restrictions on Class G drivers, ranging from having no more than one unrelated teen in the vehicle to a ban on driving between midnight and 5 a.m. without a parent present unless it's for something like going to work.
The texting and talking ban, Fann said, fits right in.
"The sole purpose is these young people need to be concentrating, not be distracted by others in the car, by other things going on,” she said. "They need to learn good driving habits.”
The measure still needs approval by the full Senate before going to the House.