The bill's dead. No, wait, it's back alive! I'm confused...!
As I suspect was the case for many fellow Arizonans, I had trouble following the developments of a proposed texting while driving ban in our state legislature. Early this week, the Arizona State Senate killed a proposed bill that would ban this very dangerous practice. Then, a day later, the story broke that the bill may not be dead after all. News stations, websites, and dinner tables were abuzz with the debate over what, if anything, should be done about his inherently dangerous activity. Does the state have a right to stop us from doing it? How dangerous could it be, after all? What would be the punishment?
I acknowledge there are a few questions to be answered, but there is one thing I know for certain: the Arizona legislature got this one wrong. Waaaaay wrong.
In fact, it should have been banned long ago, and I feel like our legislature is making a big mistake if it drops the ball on this issue. There are both logical and legal reasons for this.
First of all, I have a hard time believing anyone who says that texting while driving isn't dangerous. Yes, I consider myself a "multi-tasker" too, but there is only so much I can do with two hands, two eyes, and a flock of unknown strangers driving around me. And I admit that sometimes there is an irresistible urge to check my messages and emails. BAD IDEA!
But, if I can text while driving, who's to say that I can't juggle knives while operating my semi tractor trailer? The opponents to this bill say “too much control” and that there are already laws on the books that cover this. They cite the reckless driving laws. Sorry folks---not even close. From a legal standpoint, the "reckless driving" statute does not cover texting. Is it "reckless" to text while driving, or perhaps only "negligent”? If you do not cause an accident, is it reckless or negligent at all? (The legal definition of “negligence” requires that some damage occur. No damage, no negligence, and recklessness is a step up the ladder from negligence.) You see, even by not passing this law, the legal questions and controversies remain.
Before I go further, I want to give credit where it's due. Despite its current wavering, Arizona is actually a leader on the issue of texting while driving. One of our state legislators was the first in the nation to propose a ban on the practice several years ago. The city of Phoenix, rightly and thankfully, has already banned the practice in city limits. Local leaders have already shown the precedent and willingness to tackle this issue. Now it is time for Arizona’s state legislature to step up. The current laws do NOT stop or prohibit this practice. A police officer has little or no right to stop a motorist for this. However, pass the law, and it gives some teeth to the prohibition.
Last year there was a horrific and deadly train accident in southern California. Twenty-five people died and hundreds were seriously injured. An investigation showed that the train engineer had sent a text message 22 SECONDS before the collision. What do you think he was paying attention to, as opposed to the tracks in front of him? Yep. Not rocket science to understand this is a BAD thing.
We can't simply rely on other drivers to be responsible or do what's best. Driving safely is tough enough when we're sober, focused, and healthy, given the dangers that come our way every day on the road. What we need to protect ourselves, our family, and our fellow citizens is a statewide law banning texting while driving. It's overwhelmingly in the best interest of all Arizonans, and I'm sure we can wait an extra 10 minutes to check our email, or the latest Tweet, or, whatever….