PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Shortly after noon on Thursday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed HB 2318, which bans texting and driving in Arizona. It passed 44 to 16.
Under this bill, talking on the phone, texting, and using the internet while the phone is in your hand is prohibited. Calling over Bluetooth and for emergencies would be permissible.
HB 2318 was written by Rep. Noell Campbell (R-1). It's similar to SB 1165 written by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-28).
Marc Lamber, a personal injury attorney in Phoenix, says the ban is a long overdue.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult to fight," he said. "I think the way that it’s been drafted is, if you got it in your hand or if it’s on your body, it’s a violation.”
Another bill that prohibits distracted driving, SB 1141, passed on a final reading. However, that bill is headed back to the Senate with an amendment before it goes to Gov. Doug Ducey's desk.
“You see people on the roadway sometimes, and you see that car swerving or not staying in its lane, and they’re shaving, or they’re putting on make up, or someone’s unwrapping a cheeseburger or a taco and eating it in their car," Lamber said.
SB 1141 goes beyond cellphone use on the road. An emotional debate took place on the House floor over that bill. Some Democrats argued that the bill would increase racial profiling. Proponents said broad legislation is needed to save lives.
“So I think the law is always trying to draw lines," Lamber said. "And you’re trying to figure out that point where you’re making the roads safer, but you’re not taking it too far.”
It was a bittersweet moment for families of Arizonans killed by distracted drivers as lawmakers passed the ban.
"Now you know, wherever you're driving, you have to have your phone down because it killed my dad and it can kill again. All these families, it's killing people and this is why we need this law," said Jonathan Hall, whose father was killed by a distracted driver.
The family of Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend watched the vote come in from the House gallery. Townsend's death in January helped fuel the final push to pass a ban on cell phone use at the wheel.
"Tears. I know there are others fighting for this a lot longer than I have. And I know how much it means to them and just to know that this part of the journey is behind us," said Pete Johnson, Townsend's father-in-law.
HB 2318 is now waiting for Ducey's signature. He's expressed willingness to sign a bill banning texting and driving, though it's unclear when he will take action.
If the governor signs HB 2318 into law, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. A first violation would result in ticket of between $75 and $150.
"It's a huge feeling of relief for me, but also a big joy because we've done something; we've made a difference. And something good can come from something so horrible in our family," said Johnson.