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Texting and driving bans in Arizona keep being proposed; but never pass

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-04 09:51:28-04

ABC15 found Arizona State Legislature bills dating back to 2004 that try to get drivers to put their phones down, but unless you are a new teen driver, texting behind the wheel remains legal.

Families testified in a February 2018 committee hearing about their loved ones killed by drivers texting or otherwise using their phones. The stories brought some legislators to tears. The bill made it out of committee but never became law. Arizona is still one of just three states that don't ban texting for all drivers. Several Arizona cities and counties have bans for drivers on texting or phone usage or hands-free requirements.

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"It's really, really sad," state Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said.  He's been a frequent sponsor of the texting ban bills.  "Certain people in the legislature, for whatever reason and that reason keeps changing, have decided to block it from becoming a law."

"It was a very poorly crafted bill, in my opinion," Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said about the 2018 bill. He said the measure included too many exceptions and did not address the core concern of all distracted driving. Mesnard drafted his own version.

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"Not everybody who texts is going to be a hazard on the road," Mesnard said. "Nor are there situations where people shouldn't even be talking next to them or even talking on the phone because it's causing them to be a hazard on the road." 

Neither side had enough traction to pass a bill in the full House of Representatives before the end of the 2018 legislative session.
"It should not be political," Mesnard said. "That's why I was very frustrated and disappointed."

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Some victims and families are also disappointed, saying the ban, in any format, would save lives.

"This is absolutely appalling," crash survivor Brendan Lyons said. "We need to put [political] parties aside. We need to focus on the common good."

Both Mesnard and Farley say they'll push similar bills next year.

You can find your legislator to contact him or her about texting and driving.