Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, is bringing back a familiar bill in the upcoming session to restrict cell phone use behind the wheel.
The bill has been voted down for the past four years under the sponsorship of former representative K. L. Brown of Jacksonville.
“His heart was really in it,” Wood said. “I’m on (the Rules committee) and I would pick it for him. He always had tears in his eyes.”
Wood said shortly after the latest failure to pass the bill, a young woman was killed in a wreck in Brown’s district due to using the phone while driving.
“There’s two families ruined and distraught because of talking on the cell phone,” Wood said. “The lady’s family that passed away the one that hit her, their life is ruined too.”
The bill would prevent a driver from taking a photo or video with a device unless pulled over and in park, and would prohibit holding a cell phone while driving.
Although the bill has failed to pass, it has been one of the closest votes, failing 47-48 in its last iteration.
“I think what it is, people do not want nobody telling them what to do,” Wood said. “I understand that. On the other hand, if you can prevent someone from losing their life, it’s worth it.”
The bill has also gained opposition from Black members who expressed concern that the bill might be disproportionally used as a reason to stop Black drivers.
Alabama already has a law against texting while driving, but Wood said there is little an officer can do to prove that. However, if someone is holding a phone up to their ear, Wood said an officer would have more to go on.
The bill includes some language that had been added in amendments previously, including that drivers could use the phone on speaker in the car, as long as the driver isn’t holding the phone.
“Lay it on the seat, or the console,” Wood said. “It’ll serve the same purpose.”
Wood said studies show just reading a person’s name or number off while driving can take about five seconds, long enough to travel the length of a football field.
“No matter what, it’s about safety,” Wood said. “It’s about saving lives. That, to me, that’s very important.”