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Statewide Ban On Using Cellphones While Driving Passes Arizona Senate

The Arizona Senate has approved what may be Arizona’s first-ever universal ban on texting while driving.

Senate Bill 1165 is far reaching: no driver would be able to hold a device in their hand while the car is in motion. This includes making a call, sending a text, taking photos and streaming videos on a cellphone or tablet.

Nearly 30 communities in the state have their own restrictions on devices and driving and Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) says this bill eliminates confusion.

"It seeks to create a uniform law that would be statewide, superseding all other municipalities, which would give all of our motorists as well as our business owners and everyone else the ability to know exactly what our laws are from one city to another city,” Fann said.

Sen. Eddie Farnsworth was one of ten lawmakers who didn’t support the bill. He said there are already harsh penalties if a driver who causes an accident wasn’t paying attention to the road.

"If we're going to go down this path we ought to deal with distractions in their totality with some evidence that it is impairing driving,” he said.

There are similar concerns in the Arizona House, which has been hesitant to support statewide bans.

However if it does pass, Gov. Doug Ducey said he would sign the bill.

If passed, drivers would not see fines until 2021, but police officers could give warnings before then.

The first violation would carry a fine or no more than $149; subsequent offenses will cost at least $150 but no more than $250.

Motorists could still chat and text with their hand-held phones if they're stopped at a traffic light or pulled over and parked.

Although recording or broadcasting a video also would become illegal unless the cameras was set up to continuously record or broadcast without operator intervention, there are exemptions if a driver is using a navigation program.

Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer at KJZZ from 2015 to 2019.