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Wireless device ban for teens will save lives

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Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013 3:49 pm

Since the state’s improved Graduated Driver’s License Law (GDL) went into effect in 2008, fewer families have had to experience the tragedy of losing a loved one in a traffic crash.

In fact, teen driver and passenger fatalities in Arizona are down nearly 20 percent from 2008 when the state’s GDL law took effect. However, as an advocate for the safety and security of the motoring public, AAA believes more needs to be done to save lives on our roadways, as traffic crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among teens.

That’s also why AAA is supporting a new bill that aims to further strengthen Arizona’s Graduated Drivers License Law. Sponsored by Republican Sen. Al Melvin, Senate Bill 1241 would prohibit teens from using wireless communication devices while driving during the six-month permit phase and the first six months of unsupervised driving, except for in emergency situations.

Why is this legislation needed? Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, according to research by Carnegie Mellon. Plus, the risk of a teen being involved in a car crash is at a lifetime high during the first six to 12 months and 1,000 miles of driving, according to the National Safety Council. Ensuring teen drivers maintain their focus at the wheel is paramount to the safety of all road users.

Need more convincing? Here are some stark facts, according to a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

• About 82 percent of 16- and 17-year-old drivers have cell phones and are more likely to use them than any other age group while driving.

• 61 percent of young drivers reported to have read a text or email while driving in the past month.

• 26 percent of young drivers reported checking or updating social media while driving.

By taking wireless communication devices, such as cell phones, out of teen drivers’ hands, we can help reduce already heightened crash risks and help teens create safer driving habits. Senate Bill 1241 is a reasonable solution that will curb dangers associated with teen drivers during that time. As an advocacy organization, AAA believes this legislation will save additional lives.

Arizonans can monitor the progress and take action on this bill, as well as other automotive, insurance, transportation and travel-related issues by visiting AAA’s legislative action center.

• Linda Gorman is communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or lgorman@arizona.aaa.com.

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