A state Senate committee Wednesday approved a watered-down ban on texting while driving after hearing emotional pleas from the family of a DPS officer killed by a distracted driver.
The Senate Government Committee voted unanimously to approve a bill that would ban sending text messages while driving, but not ban reading the messages.
"Even though I would vote for a bill that banned texting and reading texts, I know that would never pass this Legislature," said the committee chairman, Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills).
Seven family members of DPS Officer Tim Huffman attended the hearing during a break in the murder trial for the trucker whose 18-wheeler plowed into Huffman's cruiser in May 2013 along Interstate 8 near Yuma. Huffman was 47.
Investigative documents and video later showed that the driver, Jorge Espinoza, 33, was looking at pictures of women "with little clothing" on Facebook.
The testimony from Huffman's family was heart breaking.
"Please, please keep your people safe," Tammy Huffman, the officer's sister-in-law, told the legislators through tears.
Tim Huffman's twin brother, Warren Huffman, alluded to the horrific video showing the last seconds before the trucker hurtled into the parked DPS cruiser at 65 miles per hour.
"Eight seconds of looking away from the road and paying attention to something else caused all that damage, all that harm and all that pain for the family," he said.
Democratic State Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson said this was the ninth distracted-driving bill he had introduced in the last eight years. None have passed. Farley said that could help the trucker charged with killing Tim Huffman
"The key point the defense attorney used to try to get him off was saying that we don't have a state law (banning distracted driving)," Farley said.
After the hearing, the seven Huffman family members headed back to Yuma. They came to Arizona from all over the country to sit through the trucker's month-long murder trial. The jury could reach a verdict any day.
Meantime, the distracted-driving bill faces high hurdles. Farley said Senate President Andy Biggs had been a staunch opponent in the past. A Biggs spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
Follow Brahm Resnik on Twitter at @brahmresnik.