By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama’s law to ban text messaging while driving a motor vehicle passed the Alabama State House of Representatives Tuesday. The bill had support from both political parties, passing by a margin of 92-0.
The bill was introduced by Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville. ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ spoke with Rep. McClendon by phone Wednesday evening.
Rep. McClendon said that he had been working on a no texting while driving bill for five years. The bill normally passes in the House but dies a cruel death in the Senate, but Rep. McClendon expects that this year will be different. Representative McClendon said that in the previous four years the bill was opposed by the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. Rep. McClendon said that this year, Senator Jabo Waggoner (R) is the new Chairman of the Senate Rules committee and Sen. Waggoner will be the Senator that introduces the bill into the Senate. Rep. McClendon said that Chairman Waggoner is committed to the bill.
Rep. McClendon said that the bill will make texting while driving a primary offense. The advantage of that is that police will be able to stop someone for texting and driving without having to prove that they were stopped for suspicion of something else.
Rep. McClendon said that we do not know for sure how many Alabamians get in wrecks from texting while driving, because without it being a criminal offense there is no reason for investigating officers to check the phones when they prepare the accident reports now. We don’t know for certain how many people die on Alabama roads because of texting, but we “get stories all the time.”
We asked Rep. McClendon if this was really enforceable. Rep. McClendon said, “I see people texting and driving all the time.” He said that it is “Not hard to see.” Rep. McClendon says that he sees people looking down at their phone and steering with their legs all the time on the interstate while he is driving to Montgomery. If somebody thinks they were improperly ticketed for this offense, Rep. McClendon said that they can bring their phone records to court to prove that they were not texting at the time of the citation.
We asked Rep. McClendon is there was any momentum for a bill banning all cell phone use while driving a vehicle? Rep. McClendon said “I hear legislators talking about it, but there isn’t any bill” introduced in the legislature yet.
Rep. McClendon said that he did not support stiffer penalties where texting causes a wreck and a fatality. Rep. McClendon said that the Senate could add that provision, but it would make passage of the bill more difficult.
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said on Facebook, “We’re taking action to make our highways safer. Yesterday the House passed a bill prohibiting texting/emailing while driving. We’ve probably all been guilty of this, but texting while driving is incredibly dangerous to everybody on the road. Studies show texting while driving is as dangerous, or even more dangerous than drunken driving. This bill will save lives and that’s why I support it.”
Rep. McClendon said that he shared Speaker Hubbard’s sentiments. “I look forward to the senate getting the bill.”
Representative Jim McClendon represents House of Representatives District 50 and is in his third term in the Alabama House. District 50 includes much of St. Clair and Shelby County.
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