Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Tuesday, May 8, signed into law a bill that prohibits use of a wireless device to write, send or read a text message, instant message or e-mail during operation of a motor vehicle.
The new law, which takes effect Aug. 1, makes Alabama the 38th state to outlaw the practice of texting while driving.
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 is placed on the offender’s driving record.
“Signing this bill sends a message that drivers need to focus on driving – not on sending a text,” Bentley said. “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 new law is a primary law, meaning law-enforcement officers can cite motorists for such a violation without any other traffic offense taking place. Officers don’t need to observe a different traffic violation to pull the driver over.
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.
State Rep. Jim McClendon was the House sponsor of the legislation.
“After six years of attempting to get this bill through, persistence has finally paid off,” McClendon said. “It took four years for this bill to pass the House, two years for it to pass the Senate, and today I’m delighted that Gov. Bentley is signing this bill into law. Our highways will be safer with the passage of this law.”
State Sen. Jabo Waggoner was the Senate sponsor of the legislation.
“I am proud to have assisted in passing this important bill that I believe will help save lives on Alabama’s roadways,” Waggoner said.
With the goal of tightening an existing law prohibiting texting while driving, both houses of Virginia's General Assembly recently voted to ban the use of handheld mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle.