PHOENIX, AZ --- Though he believes that behind-the-wheel texting poses a serious safety risk, one Arizona highway safety official is publicly expressing doubts that more stringent laws provide a viable solution.
"Texting and driving is a horrendous practice," Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, told Cronkite News Service. "But we also need to look at the whole issue. It's not text messaging only; it's all distracted driving."
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, and six states plus the District of Columbia require drivers to use hands-free devices for cell phones.
Gutier said that the city of Phoenix has issued only a handful of citations since banning texting while driving in 2007. "I'll support anything that saves lives, but it's almost impossible to enforce and even less easy to prove," he said.
The Arizona State Senate this year rejected a bill that would have fined drivers $50 for talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device or for text-messaging while driving. It would have raised the fine to $200 for drivers involved in accidents.
"People do dumb things while driving," Gutier told Cronkite News Service. "A national, local and state media campaign on the dangers of texting or using the phone is as important as a law on the books."
Gutier also expressed doubts about whether it's necessary to legislate what he said should be common sense.
"Let's not become a nanny state where everything has to be legislated and mandated," he said. "We have a lot of other issues that are more important."