2013: Bill would ban cell phone use by novice teen drivers

[Update as of 2/23/2013, The McComish novice cell ban, SB1241, is moving forward. The Farley full text ban SB1218 is dead. See below ]
[Update as of 4/4/2013 McComish bill appears stalled, it is being prevented from coming to a vote in full senate. In other news, Farley tried again, via amendment, to get a texting ban; see notes below on SB2378]

It’s the start of a new legislative season in Arizona, the 51st Regular session, for those keeping track.  (find other bills of interest with the legislation tag)

A cell phone ban has been introduced, SB1241. The same (or similar?) bill was introduced last year, bill-would-ban-cell-phone-use-by-teen-drivers-with-learners-permits. The bill applies only to “novice” drivers, that is those who are 16-18 years old, and the ban only lasts for 6 months. On the brighter side, it is a total ban, which I prefer to, say, a handsfree exception. For background, see NTSB has called for a total ban.

Arizona presently has no laws* restricting use of “electronic communication devices”, though there are some local bans, e.g. the City of Phoenix banned texting in 2007, and in 2012 the City of Tucson did something (i don’t have that handy; i’m thinking it was a handheld cell ban w/ handsfree loophole). Many other states have moved to try and limit cell use while driving; here is a good chart from ghsa.org. The main federal site is at distraction.gov.

* oops, that’s not exactly true; in Arizona, there’s a ban on all cell use by school bus drivers.

Here’s another bill sponsored by Steve Farley (D-Tucson) SB1268 class G licensees; communication devices. This bill seems nearly identical to SB1241(?); and as of 2/23 it is not assigned to any committee which I imagine means it is dead.

In any event, SB1241 is moving forward: it was heard and  got a DO PASS by Public Safety on 2/13. It was then (supposed to be) heard by Transportation 2/19 (minutes not yet available.

Full Texting Ban Proposed

This year, being no different than other years, Sen Steve Farley (D-Tucson) has introduced a general purpose (not age-restricted) bill that would ban texting; SB1218. According to an azcentral.com news story, this is one of only five senate bills to be “triple assigned”; meaning it must pass through THREE committees, any one of which can kill it.

Moving on, a news story 2/23 Scrap heap of dead bills piling up at Arizona Legislature, specifically mentions SB1218 as being “dead”. “Dead” means leadership didn’t assign the bill to (any) committee — i.e. it didn’t really get triple-assigned. Dead is not absolute but generally, dead means dead.

Farley tries to slip in texting ban

Sen Steve Farley attempted to slip in a texting ban via a floor amendment to an (arguably) unrelated bill, HB2312;  see Senate rejects texting-while-driving amendment 4/2/2013, here are some gems: “But (Farley’s) attempt to amend House Bill 2312 failed on a 16-12 party-line vote, with Republicans opposed and Democrats in support. Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, led the charge against Farley’s amendment. He said the books on state traffic laws are already thick with regulations that could enforce penalties against drivers whose on-road behavior is reckless”

Some History

Various legislators (Mr. Farley and Al Melvin come to mind) have in the past, repeatedly for several years running, introduced various more general restrictions on cell communications that never were enacted; stalling in various committees — see e.g. the 2010 go-round where a bill that year “sailed” through the Senate but stalled in the House.

handsfreeinfo.com/arizona-cell-phone-laws-legislation has a really good session-by-session history of Arizona cell legislation attempts which describes activity back as far as at least 2007.

Arizona Update — July 2013

News item about Farley’s ongoing multi-year efforts, Driver-texting ban still elusive in Arizona, begins “Almost every state has responded to rising smartphone use with a law banning drivers from texting, many in the past few years. Arizona is one of nine states that have yet to make that leap…”. Though I still haven’t seen compelling empirical data showing bans are having the desired effect. My list of studies is here. This begs the question; If cell phone use is so distracting (and it certainly is, there is mountain of off-road evidence that it impairs driving ability) what are the bans really doing? Are there unintended consequences?

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