PHOENIX — Arizona is one signature away from imposing its first limits on the use of cell phones by teens.
On a 32-24 margin Thursday, the state House gave final approval to legislation saying that teens with learner’s permits can neither text nor make calls from their cell phones while behind the wheel. SB 1080 also extends that to the first six months they have their actual Class G license, reserved for the newest drivers.
The measure, previously approved by the Senate on a 24-6 vote, now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey.
Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said Ducey will review the bill.
Thursday’s vote came over the objection of some legislators who want Arizona to remain one of two states (Montana is the other) with no limits on cell phone use by motorists. They said their fear is that once Arizona restricts what teens can do, it’s just a small step to extending that to others.
Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, said he shares that concern. But Stringer agreed to vote for the measure after speaking with Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who shepherded the measure through the Senate.
“She assured me last night when we spoke this is not the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, that she is only concerned with the Class G new driver, and this is not going to be an effort to expand it again and expand it again,” he said.
There also were objections from the other side of the issue, with some lawmakers questioning why the limits should be so narrow.
“The problem I have with this bill is I think it’s a criminalization of young teenagers,” said Rep. Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix. “If we want to pass a texting bill, let’s pass it for all of us.”
Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said there’s a good reason to focus on the newest drivers. He said 11 teens die nationally every day while texting and driving.
He cited a AAA study which found that 94 percent of teen drivers recognize the danger of texting and driving. “But 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway,” Bolding said.