Senate Bill 1080 a good start, but more work needed

Gov. Doug Ducey took the first step in making Arizona’s highways and byways safer last week when he signed Senate Bill 1080 into law.

SB 1080 bans the use of wireless devices while driving for teenagers during the permit phase and first six months of the graduated license phase. Exceptions include emergencies “when stopping the motor vehicle is impossible or will create an additional emergency or safety hazard” and the use of audible turn-by-turn navigation devices as long as the destination is not manually entered into the device while driving and as long as the device is not manually adjusted while driving.

While we’re thrilled that we’re finally addressing this epidemic, we still have a long way to go.

Violating SB 1080 is a secondary offense, meaning a police officer can’t stop or cite a driver he observes texting. He can only cite the driver for violating SB 1080 after he’s pulled him over for a primary offense, such as speeding.

It makes sense. There is no way for a police officer to ascertain the age of the driver simply by looking at him. Running a check on the license plate will only show who the vehicle is registered to, not who is driving.

But an overall ban would solve that.

It’s not a novel idea.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 46 states ban text messaging for all drivers, and all but five have made violating the ban a primary offense.

Many Arizona legislators and even the governor himself aren’t in favor of an overall ban, but we stand by what we said in last week’s editorial: age makes no difference. Thirty-somethings aren’t more adept at texting while driving than teenagers.

While the governor made a good point when he said, “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,” how will our older drivers be guided if they’re allowed to continue bad habits?

Our representatives may be in favor of allowing adults to text while driving, but we’re not, and they work for us.

If you believe, as we do, that Arizona needs to join the other 46 states with overall texting bans, tell your legislators. Like we said last week, we don’t think they even realize what they’re fighting for or against. No one in his right mind could actually think texting while driving is perfectly safe as long as the driver is an adult with more behind-the-wheel experience. If experience were the benchmark, we’re sure plenty of teens could argue the opposite: adults may have more experience behind the wheel, but teenagers have more experience behind the cell phone.

Tell your legislators to check their slippery slope paranoia at the car door and get to work on an overall texting while driving ban.

To find out who your legislators are, go to http://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/.

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