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Arizona senator fights for texting while driving ban

LISTEN: Arizona State Senator Steve Farley

PHOENIX — An Arizona senator spoke to Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes Wednesday on his never-ending fight to impose a ban on texting while driving.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, has been fighting for a complete ban on distracted driving since 2007, but his efforts have been successfully thwarted by Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert.

“I was actually the first legislator in the country to introduce the bill banning driving while texting in January 2007,” Farley said in an interview with Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes Wednesday. “I was way ahead of the curve and Arizona could have been, but we did not.”

Last Wednesday, SB-1102 passed through the Senate Government Committee with the support of the committee chairman, Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills.

The bill has passed unanimously after Kavanagh’s amendments, which watered it down to restrict only sending a text message, not reading one that has been received. The bill also would not ban dialing a phone number or viewing GPS information.

In order to the bill to reach the Senate floor, two committees would need the bill on their calendars. As of Monday, neither committee did not have it on their respective agendas.

Although Farley has been fighting for the implementation of this bill for years, he acknowledged the heightened awareness the issue continues to get.

“Every time I make this attempt, there’s a lot of publicity about it,” Farley said. “When people see that publicity, they think to themselves, ‘Ya know, this is a bad idea. Maybe I’ll just put down that phone now, maybe I won’t wait for that law.'”

Farley used the tragedy of Highway Patrol Officer Tim Huffman to appeal to the committee. Huffman passed away in May 2013 after a semi-truck driver, Jorge Espinoza, slammed into his patrol car parked on the shoulder of a highway.

“I don’t want more Tim Huffmans, that’s the bottom line,” Farley said in his appeal to the committee. “We don’t want to give any defense attorney an opportunity to get someone off because we haven’t done our job here.”

Farley acknowledged that establishing a law alone will not be enough to change behavior.

“We don’t just need a law, but we need enforcement and education,” Farley said.

Arizona is one of only two states that do not impose any ban on distracted driving, along with Montana.