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2:35 AM Wed, Feb. 20th

State’s new drivers will have texting law to contend with in 2018



PHOENIX – Saying sometimes parental admonitions are not always enough, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Thursday that will make it illegal for the state’s newest drivers to use their cell phones by behind the wheel.

But not just yet.

The legislation, which takes effect July 1, 2018, bans not just texting but even making calls for those with a learner’s permit as well as teens for the first six months after they get an actual license.

First-time violations can result in a $75 fine and having the new motorist’s restrictions – things beyond cell phone use like not driving after midnight and limiting the number of other teens in the vehicle – extended for an additional 30 days.

A second violation is a $100 fine with an extra six months of restrictions. And a third offense results in license suspension for 30 days.

The measure was approved over objections from some legislators who said it should be up to parents to ensure that new drivers in the family aren’t texting or chatting.

Ducey said he understands that, having already raised two teen drivers and with a 13-year-old waiting in the wings for his chance.

“I had more than advice,’’ he told Capitol Media Services about his experiences with his sons. “I had a contract they needed to sign.’’

But the governor said that goes only so far.

“The law is a teacher,’’ he said. And Ducey said there is a “tremendous learning curve’’ for new drivers.

“So I’m hopeful that parents are advising their kids not to text and drive,’’ he said. “Now the law will reinforce that.’’

Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she crafted the legislation to be the most politically acceptable, affecting only the newest drivers and only for six months. Prior measures going back more than a decade which sought to impose a more encompassing ban have proven to be non-starters.

But Ducey said he supports something even more expansive than what landed on his desk.

“I would have signed a bill that restricted texting from 16 to 18,’’ the governor said. “I think your rights, your ability to vote, serve your country begin at 18.’’

While Ducey is driven around most of the time by his state security detail, he still gets out and drives a bit on the weekend. And the governor said that having teen boys has changed his own driving habits.

“I don’t want to talk as if I’ve been perfect,’’ he said. “But as all fathers have experienced, as your kids are growing up and coming to driving age, you hear a lot from them about your driving habits.’’