No Voice in Arizona Means No Cell Phone While Driving

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Last updated April 12, 2019

Arizona legislators have decided to ban cell phone use only for a single group of drivers: those who cannot yet vote. The state’s Senate Committee on Public Safety and Human Services this week voted restrictions that would apply only to teenagers driving under a learner’s permit. The ban makes it illegal for such drivers to use a cell phone for voice calls, texting, data access, or most other purposes while driving. The sole exception is in cases of emergency, when cell phone use would be permitted.

The restrictions go beyond the learner’s permit stage; teenagers will have to comply with them for the first half-year they have their full license. In an interesting twist, however, if new drivers are already 18, which of course makes them able to vote, then the restrictions fall away. As they say, the ‘devil is in the details’, and the details here make it clear that Arizona lawmakers are willing to restrict cell phone use only for those individuals who have no power to cast votes against them to register their displeasure.

The ban on new drivers might make sense, were it not for the ‘over 18’ exception. It is probably true that brand new drivers need to be able to concentrate 100 percent on road conditions, with nothing to distract them. However, logically, that should be true for brand new drivers aged 18 as well.

Penalties for violating the new law are set to be fines that gradually increase extensions of the time the driver will be under restrictions, and eventually license suspensions.