Forty-seven states have made it illegal to text while driving unless using a hands-free device, and Arizona may be next.
Senate Bill 1261, recently-approved by the Senate Committee on Transportation and Technology, would create a fine of no more than $99 for a first offense and $200 for repeat violations.
That offense would escalate to a misdemeanor if the person using the cell phone is involved in an accident that causes death or serious injury. In that case, the maximum penalty would be four months in county jail and a $4,000 fine.
In order to move the bill along, lawmakers had to allow the language to be watered down, for example saying citations could be issued only if the texting was witnessed by a police officer or “established by other evidence.”
Motorists would not have to give their phone up to an officer who wants to figure out if they were texting.
The unanimous committee vote sends the measure to the full Senate.