New Arizona Bill Restricts Cellphone Use By Teens

By TERRY TANG | April 4, 2012

Arizona legislators are again trying to keep cellphones out of the hands of teen drivers new to the road.

The Senate is poised to vote on a bill that would prohibit minors driving with learner’s permits or graduated licenses from using wireless communication devices. Any violation of the ban would be considered a secondary offense, meaning it could only be enforced if motorists are pulled over for another reason.

Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, said the ban he is proposing would help “those good parents trying to teach young people good driving habits. The other thing it starts teens off with good driving habits. They all have cellphones and are easily distracted.”

A similar bill died in the House in an earlier legislative session. This new version takes a different procedural route that might improve its chances.

Sen. Ron Gould, who disapproves of cellphone bans in general, said lawmakers should not be regulating teen drivers.

“If they’re responsible enough to drive, they’re responsible enough to know when to use their cellphone,” said Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City. “Government shouldn’t be playing parents.”

Gould said reports that cite cellphone bans as factors in fewer car crash fatalities among teens aren’t necessarily accurate.

“Most of these (studies) have been pushed by insurance companies. It’s easier to come to the Legislature than educate the public,” Gould said.

Linda Gorman, a spokesman for AAA Arizona, said other states with similar laws have seen significant drops in crashes caused by teenage drivers.

“By adding this component, by eliminating the use of cellphones, we know other states have reaped the safety benefits. We’re looking forward to the same thing in Arizona,” Gorman said.

Arizona is now nearly wide-open territory for cellphone use by drivers, with only school bus drivers subject to a statewide ban.

Meanwhile, 30 other states ban cellphone use by teen drivers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 2008, Arizona enacted the Teenage Driver Safety Act. The law mandates curfew and passenger restrictions on teen drivers for the first six months after receiving their license.

Teens with graduated driver’s licenses cannot get behind the wheel between midnight and 5 a.m. They also cannot have more than one other passenger under the age of 18, unless the passenger is a sibling.

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