Bills against distracted driving brought to start Ariz. legislative session

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PHOENIX -- It looks like 2012 is the year to tackle distracted driving. Just one week into the legislative session, state lawmakers are already making it their mission to put the brakes on texting while behind the wheel.

State Sen. John McComish sponsored a bill that would ban cell phones in the car for the first six months that a teen has his or her license. He's one of four legislators calling for action, and he thinks it's smart to start with teens.

"Teens are talking on the phone; they're texting and they're new drivers," McComish said. "They need to learn to concentrate on the road ahead."

This is not the first time the issue of texting while driving has come up, but previous bills that address distracted driving, including texting, have failed to gain traction.

A nationwide study on distracted driving from AAA shows that 64 percent of teens answer phone calls, 52 percent make phone calls and 44 percent read text messages -- all while driving.

Simulators at driving schools show just how dangerous texting while driving can be. While students might think they can do more than just drive, the simulated road tests prove otherwise. Cell phone in hand, most students crash within minutes.

"I don't know when our vehicles became our entertainment centers, when they became our offices," said Maria Rich Wojtczak of Scottsdale driving school Driving MBA.

Wojtczak believes driving simulators can make a difference, especially when combined with strong law and some common sense.

"The legislation certainly can help, but we as citizens have to think about the danger we're not only putting ourselves in but other people on the road," she said.

McComish's bill is set to be heard by the Senate Public Safety Committee Wednesday. AAA says if Arizona passes the bill banning cell phone use for brand-new drivers, it will join 30 other states and the District of Columbia in doing so.