PHOENIX — The Arizona House has given initial approval to legislation banning texting or other cellphone use by drivers with only a learner’s permit or during the first six months teenagers have a regular license — a major move after years of failed efforts to make even small steps to address distracted driving.
The measure by Sen. Karen Fann of Prescott now needs only a formal House vote before heading to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk for his consideration.
The measure is small compared with the full ban sought by some lawmakers that has repeatedly failed to get a hearing over the years, including in the current session.
There is opposition to even the incremental proposal by Fann. Wednesday’s voice vote, without debate, came two days after Speaker J.D. Mesnard revived the legislation that had been held up by former Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Lovas.
Other Republican members opposed it and feared it would be just the start of efforts to enact a wholesale ban. Lovas resigned last week to take a job with the Trump administration.
Those opponents include the Republican majority leader and majority whip, Reps. John Allen and Kelly Townsend.
“It’s the camel’s nose. It’s incrementalism at its finest,” said Townsend. “You start with this and next thing you know it’s a full ban and I’m not for that. I’m not going to start this step forward.”
Fann said she disagrees with those who think a small ban will grow and said she has no intention of pushing for any broader cellphone ban but can’t say other won’t.
“My goal is concentrating on the young kids, my goal is to make sure that they learn how to be safe drivers before they get into an accident and hurt themselves or somebody else,” Fann said.
“All we’re doing is adding this one thing that says pay attention, learn how to drive before you start thinking about doing anything else.”
All but four states ban texting while driving. Arizona only bars school bus drivers from texting. In 2017, Arizona has seen 741 car accidents caused by distracted driving, the Arizona Department of Public Safety found.
U.S. Department of Transportation research shows 46 states and Washington, D.C., ban text messaging, while 14 states and Washington, D.C., bar the use of cellphones without hands-free devices.
KTAR News contributed to this report.
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