Ducey signs bill banning teen drivers from using cell phones

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed the teen texting bill, SB 1080. The legislation would prohibit teens within the first six months of driving from texting or using a cellphone.

Effective July 1, 2018, Arizona teen drivers will be prohibited from using wireless communication devices, such as a cell phone, while operating a vehicle during the permit and first six months of the Graduated Driver License Law (GDL) phases, except for in emergency situations.
In a tweet, Ducey wrote:

"Today I signed #SB1080. Let's utilize the early years of driving as an opportunity to guide teens toward safe driving habits."

Last week, the Arizona House gave initial approval to legislation banning texting or other cell phone use by drivers with only a learner's permit or during the first six months teenagers have a regular license - a major move after years of failed efforts to make even small steps to address distracted driving.

[RELATED: House give initial OK to texting while driving ban for teens]

The measure is small compared with the full ban sought by some lawmakers that has repeatedly failed to get a hearing over the years, including in the current session.

[RELATED: New bill would ban teens texting and driving]

There has been opposition to even the incremental proposal. Some Republican members opposed it and feared it would be just the start of efforts to enact a wholesale ban.  

Those opponents included the Republican majority leader and majority whip, Reps. John Allen and Kelly Townsend.

"It's the camel's nose. It's incrementalism at its finest," said Townsend. "You start with this and next thing you know it's a full ban and I'm not for that. I'm not going to start this step forward."

Ducey released this statement following Thursday's signing of the bill:

"Distracted driving is a growing problem in Arizona and nationally. I generally believe that public awareness and education campaigns are a more effective remedy to prevent accidents and save lives than blanket laws that let politicians feel like they've checked the box, and then move on to the next issue. For that reason, I am skeptical of large-scale bans on texting while driving - I just don't think they work.

But this bill is different. The state already regulates a number of things when it comes to early driving by teens. And for good reason. For our youth, these laws can act as a teacher. In fact, I'd be in favor of a law that goes further, banning texting while driving for all minors.  Driving is a privilege for our youth, and they are still the responsibility of their parents, financially and otherwise, before the age of 18.

If we can use the early years of their driving experience as an opportunity to guide them toward safe and responsible habits, that's a good thing."

AAA Arizona is commending Ducey's action, stating in a press release: "Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill today that will help make Arizona roads safer for everyone. This historic step by the governor concludes a decade-long effort by AAA to help reduce distracted driving by teenagers in Arizona."

"This law marks a tremendous milestone for traffic safety in Arizona," said Tim Condon, president and CEO of AAA Arizona. "On behalf of more than 900,000 members in Arizona, AAA would like to thank Gov. Ducey for recognizing the need for this life-saving legislation and acting quickly to help ensure public safety."

All but four states ban texting while driving. Arizona only bars school bus drivers from texting.

U.S. Department of Transportation research shows 46 states and Washington, D.C., ban text messaging, while 14 states and Washington, D.C., bar the use of cellphones without hands-free devices.

Teen drivers have the highest crash rate of any other age group in the United States. They are also among the most avid users of wireless communication devices. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than half of teen drivers report using a cell phone while driving, a dangerous behavior for both the driver and everyone they share the road with.

[RELATED: Arizona texting while driving ban likely for teens only (Jan. 24, 2017)]

[RELATED: Texting and driving: Should Arizona ban it?]

[PDF: Read SB 1080 (Senate engrossed version)]

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