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Lawmaker ready to try again for state ban on texting while driving

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States without full bans:

• Arizona
• Montana
• Mississippi
• Missouri
• New Mexico
• Oklahoma
• South Carolina
• South Dakota
• Texas

PHOENIX – Despite failing repeatedly since 2007, a state lawmaker said he is going to try again to have Arizona join 41 other states that have outlawed all texting while driving.

“Why shouldn’t we have a law?” said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson. “This majority enacts hundreds of laws every single year. Why not one that actually can save lives?”

He has worked on his own and with Republicans over the years. In 2010, a bill with a GOP author won Senate approval only to not be taken up in the House.

Arizona has a law banning school bus drivers from using cellphones for any purpose while driving.

Farley said there’s more than enough community support for a full ban.

“I will never stop because I have had so many victims’ families fall in my office telling me of the horrors their family has been put through when a loved one has been killed or been seriously injured by a distracted driver,” he said.

Phoenix and Tucson have ordinances banning texting while driving, but Michelle Donati, public affairs supervisor for AAA Arizona, said that isn’t enough.

“We need something widespread across the board in order to help curb the issue for Arizona as a whole,” she said.

Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, noted that the state already has a law against distracted driving in general. He questioned whether a texting ban could be enforced and suggested public education as more effective way to cut down on the problem.

“I think Senator Farley has some very good intentions in saving lives and preventing tragedies on the highways,” he said. “But in the state of Arizona there’s enough laws in the books to be able to enforce it, if it could be enforced.”

Farley said a law could be enforced.

“I don’t buy the argument that it’s hard to enforce because I’ve had plenty of patrol officers saying they know exactly who is driving while texting,” he said. “They can tell who is texting and they will be able to cite for that.”

Donati said other states have shown that laws against texting while driving can be enforced and are effective.

“We can look to other states that have incorporated similar laws, and we can see through data that it has made a difference,” she said. “It has saved lives.”

Farley said a May accident near Yuma in which a Department of Public Safety officer was struck and killed by a trucker who stands accused of browsing Facebook at the time highlights the dangers of distracted driving.

“It shows how oblivious you are to anything happening on the roadway in front of you when you are on your smartphone instead of looking at the road in front of you,” he said.