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Arizona Legislature sends cellphone driving ban to Gov. Ducey

(AP File Photo)

PHOENIX – A proposal banning the use of hand-held cellphones by drivers across Arizona is on the way to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk following a vote by the Arizona House of Representatives.

Thursday’s 44-16 vote on the harshest of the proposals up for debate in the House comes after years of inaction by the Republican-controlled legislature on the growing problem of distracted driving caused by cellphone use.

Arizona is one of three states that doesn’t ban texting while driving, but multiple cities have some form of ban or restriction, including El Mirage, Fountain Hills, Glendale, Phoenix, Surprise and Tempe in Maricopa County.

Ducey has pledged to sign legislation on the issue. If he does, HB 2318 would take effect in January 2021 and supersede the existing city statues. Until then, officers would be allowed to issue warnings after the law goes into effect.

AAA Arizona issued a statement urging Ducey to sign the bill, calling it “a tremendous milestone for traffic safety in Arizona.”

“We are optimistic that he will sign this life-saving bill into law,” the statement said.

Under the proposal, it would be illegal to drive while holding a mobile device.

Devices that can be used in a hands-free mode or are integrated with the vehicle’s control interface are exempt.

The bill prescribes fines of $75 to $149 for first offenses and $150 to $250 for subsequent violations.

Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee first introduced a texting and driving ban in January, after Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend was struck by a car during a traffic stop on Loop 101. The driver admitted he’d been texting.

“This is a great day for the people of our state,” Brophy McGee said in a press release. “We have a public health crisis, and this law will go a long way to solving it.”

The legislation that eventually passed both chambers was a version of her bill introduced in the House by GOP Rep. Noel Campbell. It passed the Senate by a 20-9 vote last week.

A separate proposal by Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard, SB 1141, also passed Thursday, by a 31-29 vote.

If signed by Ducey it would outlaw any behavior behind the wheel that wasn’t related to driving if it caused an “immediate hazard” or prevented the driver from controlling their vehicles.

But it didn’t expressly ban texting while driving or propose penalties.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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