Ted Simons: A Senate committee today heard a bill that would ban texting while driving. Here to talk about the measure is the sponsor of the bill, Senator Al Melvin.
Al Melvin: Thanks, Ted.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. Out of committee?
Al Melvin: Yes, 5-0.
Ted Simons: What does the bill do?
Al Melvin: Well, it bans texting while driving and it's going to save a lot of lives in Arizona. I'm happy to say that every cell phone company operating in the state without exception, every insurance company issuing automobile insurance and many, many law enforcement agencies have signed on to the bill.
Ted Simons: I want to get back to those supporting it and maybe some questions on it. But the fine for texting is $50. And then if you're involved in an accident it jumps to $200? How do we enforce something like that?
Al Melvin: The City of Phoenix has had it for some time. This is a process that will get us in line with 19 other states. Because it is such a serious matter, it's usually one who's texting is showing erratic driving behavior, moving erratically in the lane or out of the lane. So that'll help the police enforce it.
Ted Simons: But as far as -- if a police officer of law enforcement sees someone texting, first of all, how do they know they are not using their phone? And if they are weaving around, it sounds like dangerous driving.
Al Melvin: Well, they are both related. But the bill does not prohibit trying to punch in a number for a cell phone conversation, and it doesn't prohibit talking on a cell phone, holding it in your hand. It's only prohibiting texting.
Ted Simons: Back to enforcement. Is law enforcement suggesting how they can crack down on this? If I was pulled over can I say, no, no, I was actually dialing my phone.
Al Melvin: Well, the wave in favor of this is so large -- in fact, I was talking to a lieutenant colonel from the highway patrol today who was going to testify for the bill but we had enough votes -- that even law enforcement is banning themselves from texting because they know that it's so dangerous. So it's just going to take skill on the part of law enforcement. And I think they can see -- I've seen it myself, driving home on I-10, being passed in the fast lane and seeing a young person texting away as they are driving passing me. So I think law enforcement will be able to handle it.
Ted Simons: You mentioned lot of people are on board. They haven't always been on board. What changed?
Al Melvin: Well, one thing, I want to stress this, this is truly a bipartisan measure which is refreshing in this day and age at all levels of government. We've seen gridlock in Washington and even the county. This is -- we've got Democrats and Republicans and in fact I'm going to need every Democratic vote I can get in the Senate and the House to get this thing signed into law. But it is truly bipartisan. And when I hold my town hall meetings and talk to anyone it's clearly a bipartisan issue. And close to 90%, according to polls, favor this legislation.
Ted Simons: I was going to say, but Senate President Burns has said in the past that the bill was "unnecessary." And there are some in your republican party who say this is a NANI state, individual liberty is at play here. How do you respond?
Al Melvin: Well, I’ll tell you how I respond; I like political philosophical purity as much as the next guy. I'll ride that horse at a full gallop all day long, until I reach the cliff. That's where I get off, the horse continues. This is more important than these individual rights. You can argue that an individual has the right to wrap their car around a telephone pole while driving, but they don't have a right to drive into your car or my car coming into the other lane and that's where sanity has to prevail. I believe that it will and we will get this signed into law this year.
Ted Simons: Senator, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
Al Melvin: And I would encourage all listeners to communicate with your legislature to vote in favor of this. And I look forward to coming back again.
Ted Simons: Very good, thank you.
Al Melvin: See you, Ted.