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Updated Feb 13, 2013 - 5:27 pm

Teen drivers face cellphone ban under Senate bill

PHOENIX — State lawmakers are coming after teen drivers’ cellphones.

A bill approved by the Senate Committee on Public Safety on Wednesday seeks to
prohibit teenagers from using wireless devices while they have their learner’s
permit and during the first six months of their license, except for in

The bill advanced in a 3-1 vote would allow police officers to stop violators
under age 18 if they are also suspected of committing another traffic offense,
such as speeding. Teenage drivers could face penalties of up to $100 and a
30-day license suspension.

Supporters claim the ban would protect the state’s youngest and most
inexperienced drivers.

Republican Sen. Don Shooter, of Yuma, said he often has to swerve to avoid
texting drivers on the road.

“As much as I am against the intrusion, maybe the trade-off may be worth it to
try to keep these kids from hurting themselves or hurting other people,” he

Republican Sen. Gail Griffin, of Hereford, opposed the measure, citing other
legal distractions, including music, food and makeup.

Nearly 3,100 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2010,
while another 416,000 were injured, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration has found. More than 100,000 crashes per year are linked to
drivers reading or sending text messages, according to the National Safety

“Parents appreciate this type of bill because it gives them cover so to
speak,” said Linda Gorman, an Arizona-based spokeswoman for the automobile
group AAA. “They don’t necessarily want their teen driving and talking on the

In 2008, Arizona enacted the Teenage Driver Safety Act. The law mandates curfew
and passenger restrictions on teen drivers for the first six months after
receiving their license. Teens with graduated driver’s licenses cannot get
behind the wheel between midnight and 5 a.m.

Lawmakers tried to pass a similar cellphone ban for teen drivers in 2012.

The District of Columbia and 10 states _ California, Connecticut, Delaware,
Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia _
have banned handheld phone use by all drivers, according to the National
Conference of State Legislatures.


Cristina Silva can be reached at


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