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Danehy

Arizona finally has a ban on texting while driving—but it’s not going into effect soon enough

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At the end of the World war II movie The Big Red One, The Sergeant (played by long-time Tucson resident Lee Marvin) is approached by his German counterpart, Schroeder, who is attempting to surrender. The Sergeant, enraged by the death of a young boy who had helped him earlier, stabs the German and is prepared to let Schroeder die. Suddenly, his squad arrives and tells the Sergeant that "the war has been over for four hours."

The Sergeant then frantically attempts to save Schroeder's life, saying that he doesn't want to be responsible for the final death of the long war.

This came to mind when I saw that the Arizona Legislature, after years and years (and deaths and deaths) of ignoring the most obvious of all public safety issues, finally got around to making it illegal to text while driving. Well, sort of.

We all remember the very first time we saw somebody driving and talking on the phone and thinking to ourselves, "That's just not right." Just think of all the people—mothers and fathers, teachers and engineers, students and retired people—who would still be with us if legislators had recognized the clear and present danger and banned the selfish and stupid practice before it was allowed to spread.

It has been a great source of frustration over the past 20 years watching state after state pass common-sense laws against cell-phone use while driving. It was so obviously dangerous, and yet Arizona held out against passing anything at all. The initial excuses against doing so were lame and they became downright criminal as the years went by and the body count mounted.

There was the Fake-Ass Libertarian who wants to smoke dope and doesn't want the government telling us what we can or cannot do. There were the legislative committee chairpeople who fit very nicely in the back pockets of the cell-phone industry lobbyists whose job it was to see that no laws were passed that could cut into profits and/or expose their bosses to liability. And then there was the vast majority of self-delusional people who somehow managed to convince themselves that they drove exactly the same whether they had a phone in their hand or not.

Along those lines, whoever coined the term "multi-task" needs to be slapped across the face really hard at least once a day until...well, until we get to a point where nobody ever uses the stupid term again. It has been proven that maybe one person in 10,000 can actually perform multiple tasks simultaneously without a diminution of the efficacy of any of the tasks—basically, fighter jet pilots. And no, you're not one of those.

Year after year, the legislators just simply chose to let people die on our highways rather than doing the right thing. And you just KNEW that the legislators who either voted against such laws and/or those who wouldn't even allow them to come to a vote were almost certainly the most egregious offenders. "Oh, look at me, I'm in the Legislature. Everything I do and every phone call I make is ultra-important. If we passed laws, I wouldn't have to follow them, but it's easier to simply not pass laws in the first place."

I used to openly wish that every single one of those people in the Legislature who refused to do the right thing on this issue would get crashed into by somebody who was on their phone while driving. In the words of Martin Lawrence, I didn't want them to die; I just wanted them to fall hard.

Pretty soon, Arizona was one of only 20 states that didn't have a law making that potentially deadly behavior a crime. Then, it was one of only 10. Then, one of five.

Arizona's "lawmakers" showed no guts whatsoever. But I remember thinking, "Well, it's bad enough that people talk on their cellphones while driving. At least nobody will be stupid enough to text while they're driving."

I wonder if Salt River police officer Clayton Townsend ever had that same thought. He's the one who left behind a wife and a 10-month-old baby after, while performing a traffic stop, he was struck and killed by a driver who was texting ON THE FREEWAY!

Finally, and far too late, Arizona joined the 21st century in protecting its citizens. Just as it was the 48th state to join the Union, so, too, is it the 48th state to pass a law against cellphone use while driving. (Missouri and Montana are now the lone holdouts.)

But even then, it wasn't easy. There were still the lamebrains who whined, "Yeah, but what about the people who take a bite of a hamburger?" It finally passed and was signed into law on April 22. But here's the deal: It actually doesn't take effect until Jan. 1 of 2021. That's 19 more months of carnage before people can get popped for endangering other people's lives. They can get pulled over now but all they can get is a warning. That means that they could get pulled over every single day for the next 575 days without facing any consequences. It doesn't make sense.

How would you like it if you or one of your loved ones is the last one to die before the ban goes into effect? ■

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