Senate passes bill aimed at stopping teens texting, driving

Senate passes bill aimed at stopping teens from texting, driving

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State lawmakers are renewing efforts to get teens to stop texting and talking on the phone while they're driving.

The measure stalled in previous sessions; last session it stalled in the Senate.

But on a 3-1 vote Wednesday, members of the Senate Committee on Public Safety approved a measure to prohibit cell phone use by anyone younger than 18 with a learner's permit or for the first six months of driving.

During an AAA video study, 12 percent of participants looked away from the roadway for at least four seconds during a 10 second period.

"Every two seconds you take your eyes off the road, you're at risk of becoming involved in a crash doubles, that's any age," said Stephanie Dembowski, spokesperson for AAA Arizona.  

Dembowski says that's why lawmakers are hopeful to pass a measure that would ban wireless devices.

As a result, teens won't be able to use a cell phone, to text or talk in the car, during the  
first six months of their permit phase and their first six months of unsupervised driving.

Valley teens and parents seem to agree with such a ban.

"I think it's good, I don't think you should talk and drive at the same time," said Richard Lape, a teen driver.

"it's just like drinking and driving, there's a law against that," said Toni Lape, mom of a teen driver.

Studies show that young drivers just can't handle talking on the phone or texting while in the car. They have a really difficult time keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

That's why AAA says this measure is so important it will help them focus on the task at hand. AAA says the measure does not target young drivers.

"We're not trying to target anybody, what we are trying to do is just enhance our already in place graduated drivers license law which we know works," said Dembowski.

The existing law, for example, states anyone licensed for less than six months cannot have more than one other person younger than 18 in the vehicle.

According to AAA, teen passenger and driver fatalities decreased 16 percent since that law was put into place in 2008.
New laws could help save more lives.     

Violation of the measure, if passed into law, would carry with it a fine and license suspension.

The legislation also needs approval from the transportation committee before going to the full Senate. It will be heard this week.

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