A Tucson state senator saw a glimmer of hope last week in his nearly decade long quest for a state law to ban text messaging while driving.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, clashed with Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, over a text-messaging bill since 2007, when both were in the House.
During those nine years, 44 states have passed bans outlawing texting while driving under all circumstances.
Only Arizona and Montana do not restrict texting for all drivers or for novice drivers. Arizona bans texting only for school-bus drivers. (REALLY?? We need a law telling them not to text and drive? That’s scary)
Farley is encouraged this year that the Senate Government Committee passed his bill, albeit a watered-down form. It restricts only the act of sending a text; it does not prohibit a driver from receiving or reading a text.
In making his case, Farley cited the May 2013 death of state Department of Public Safety Officer Tim Huffman, 47, as a tragic example of why a texting-while-driving law is needed. Relatives of Huffman have testified for the bill's passage.
"I don't want more Tim Huffmans, that's the bottom line," Farley said. "We don't want to give any defense attorney an opportunity to get someone off because we haven't done our job here."
He said truck driver Jorge Espinoza's defense attorney recently used the lack of a texting-while-driving law as part of Espinoza's defense. (This must have been cute: “Well, there is no law against it, so I guess it was okay.”
I’ll bet that went over well with the judge and jury) Espinoza, 36, was charged with second-degree murder in Huffman's death, but jurors found him guilty of the lesser charge of negligent homicide.
The minimum prison sentence for negligent homicide, a non-dangerous Class 4 felony, is one year in prison. For second-degree murder, it's at least 10 years. Espinoza's sentencing is scheduled for March 4.
If Farley's bill were to pass, she said, it would become "Uncle Tim's law."
After failing to ban text messaging so many other times, Farley acknowledged the likelihood of getting a text-messaging bill passed is not high, but he finds solace in the thought that media coverage about his quest and the dangers of texting while driving might convince some drivers to put down their smartphones and focus on the road.
The Arizona Republic, Azcentral.com and five television stations covered the Senate Government Committee hearing. But as of Monday, two committees that would need to pass the bill this week for it to reach the full Senate did not have it on their agendas. "I still hold out hope, but I know Andy Biggs is a hard man to budge.
He has blocked it every time," Farley said. "When we make that decision to take that electronic device in our hands and do something else than drive, we are creating the possibility that we all could be murderers."
Biggs declined to be interviewed for this story, but he released a statement. He said he has not changed his long-held position that a law banning texting while driving is unnecessary, and that generic traffic laws that can be applied to many different forms of poor driving are more effective.
OK: NEWS FLASH: ANDY BIGGS IS A MORON. HE CLEARLY HAS ZERO GRASP ON WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE ARIZONA ROADWAYS OR LAW ENFORCEMENT’S PRACTICE IN INVESTIGATING AND CITING RESPONSIBLE DRIVERS FOR THESE ACCIDENTS.
"There are many laws on the books that are designed to punish poor driving. Each of those laws deters a person who is texting while driving," Biggs said in the statement. "It may seem counterintuitive, but laws specifically prohibiting texting while driving have little effect. (YEP. CLEARLY A MORON) Such laws are virtually unenforceable. (EVEN MORE MORONIC) It is the other driving laws that allow the police to pull a driver over while texting." (REALLY? WHICH ONES???)
In a videotaped Senate floor debate with Farley in April 2013, Biggs picked up four volumes of Arizona traffic laws to demonstrate his point. The Senate defeated Farley's amendment on a 15-12 vote that year.
"I resent the implication that by opposition to this bill, someone says I am OK with texting while driving. What a false, false, contentious argument," Biggs said in the statement. "If you weave in your own lane, an officer can pull you over for texting while driving. Whether it's texting while driving, whether it's fatigue, an officer can pull you over."
But Kavanagh, a retired police officer, said during last week's committee hearing that he believes a specific law would be a deterrent as well as help educate people about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.
He is also concerned about forcing officers to "bend the law" by citing drivers for texting under the "speed not reasonable and prudent" law. (I AGREE WITH THIS 100%)
"One of the purposes of the penal code is to give people fair warning of what is not acceptable," Kavanagh said. "I think we want to send a message that texting while driving is dangerous and kills people and maims people."
During the first 81/2 months of 2014, DPS officers made 309,654 traffic stops, with 19,800 related to distracted-driving behavior, according to a September 2014 news release. DPS attributed 3,642 of those stops to cellphone use, 3,508 to other occupant-related issues and 2,385 to outside distractions, such as "rubbernecking" at accident scenes.
DPS attributed 2,400 collisions to distracted driving. In cases where contributing factors were listed, common factors included outside distractions (393 instances), reaching for objects (238 instances) cellphone use (167 instances).
ANDY BIGGS SAYS THERE ARE PLENTY OF LAWS ON THE BOOKS TO COVER THIS, INCLUDING CITING MOTORISTS FOR ‘RECKLESS DRIVING”.
I HAVE BEEN AN ACCIDENT/INJURY ATTORNEY FOR 22 YEARS, HAVING HANDLED THOUSANDS OF CLAIMS. I HAVE NOT ONCE SEEN AN AT-FAULT DRIVER RECEIVE A CITATION FOR RECKLESS DRIVING.
ANDY BIGGS WORLD IS NOT THE REAL WORLD. ARIZONA NEEDS A LAW AGAINST TEXTING AND DRIVING.
Driving while distracted
In the first 81/2 months of 2014, DPS officers made 19,800 stops related to distratcted driving. The Department of Public Safety said 3,642 were related to cellphone use. It said 2,400 collisions were attributable to distracted driving; cellphones were a factor in 167.
Only two states do not restrict texting, either for all drivers or for novice drivers. One of those states is Arizona. It is time to change this.