By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama’s law to ban text messaging while driving a motor vehicle is now in effect and law enforcement officers can stop and ticket you for it even if they see no other violations so put down the cell phone and focus on driving your automobile.
The bill (House Bill 2) was introduced by state Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville. Rep. McClendon told the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ that texting while driving is a primary offense. The St. Clair County Republican legislator said he has been working on passing a no texting while driving bill through the Alabama legislature for five years. In past legislative sessions the bill passed in the House, but died in a committee in the State Senate. This year however, Senator Jabo Waggoner (R), the new Chairman of the Senate Rules committee, carried the bill through the Senate. The law had tremendous support from both of the political parties.
Senator Jabo Waggoner (R) from Vestavia said, “I am proud to have assisted in passing this important bill that I believe will help save lives on Alabama’s roadways. Signing this bill sends a message to drivers that texting while operating a vehicle is harmful and, thanks to the Legislature and Governor Bentley, finally prohibited in Alabama.”
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said in a written statement, “This bill sends a message that drivers need to focus on driving – not on sending a text. There is nothing so urgent that it is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by sending a text message while you are driving down the road.”
The Speaker of the Alabama House, Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said, “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.”
According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving creates a crash risk that is 23 times greater than when a driver is not distracted. Also, sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. For a driver going 55 miles-per-hour, that’s the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field.
We asked Rep. McClendon if this law was really enforceable. Rep. McClendon told us, “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.
According to a recent national survey Alabama is the third most dangerous state in the country to drive in, trailing only Montana and Mississippi in the likelihood that you are going to die in your car. 21.7 per 100,000 Alabama motorists perish on Alabama’s roads and highways every year. Three lives ended on one narrow two lane section of U.S. 411 in Moody on just one day this summer in two separate incidents.
According to reporting by Heather Vaclaw at WAKA in Montgomery, Alabama State Trooper Sargent Steve Jarrett predicts that the fatality rate will drop when McClendon’s bill starts being enforced. Sgt. Jarrett says that texting while driving does cause more crashes and more deaths. “When you have a vehicle that cross the median and hits another vehicle for no apparent reason, you find the cell phone and there in the middle of a texting conversation, then it’s pretty obvious,” Jarrett said.
Alabama’s new law prohibits using a wireless device to write, send, or read a text message, instant message or e-mail while operating a motor vehicle. The fine for violating the law is $25 for a first-time offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third or subsequent offense. Also, for each offense, a two-point violation would be placed on the offender’s driving record and their auto insurance will typically increase as they accumulate points.
Rep. McClendon said at HB 2’s signing ceremony, “It took four years for this bill to pass the House, two years for it to pass the Senate.” “Our highways will be safer with the passage of this law.”