Locals: Texting, driving bill good step

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 28, 2012

Alabama is set to become the 38th state in the nation to ban texting while driving – and locals couldn’t be more behind the measure.

State lawmakers approved the measure unanimously Thursday night. Jennifer Ardis, press secretary for Gov. Robert Bentley, said he would review the bill thoroughly before deciding whether to sign it.

A compromise version of the bill Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville cleared the House 95-0 and the Senate 28-0 Thursday.

The bill prohibits sending text messages, instant messages and emails while behind the wheel. It provides exceptions for contacting emergency services and for using global position services.

“This will save lives on our highways, make our highways safer and protect our families,” McClendon said.

The bill includes a fine of $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third or subsequent offense.

Kenny Weaver and Michael Weaver, cousins from Andalusia, operate big rigs for a living and were glad to hear the measure was passed.

“I wholeheartedly agree with it,” Michael said.

“We have CDLs (driver’s licenses), and as truck drivers, if we get caught (texting while driving), it’s a huge fine,” Kenney said. “I’m glad to see it’s the same now for other drivers.”

Patty Hidle said, “I agree with it. I’m all for it, and I’ll abide by it.”

Megan Weant said texting while driving is a dangerous practice that should be avoided at all costs.

“I definitely agree with (the law),” Weant said. “I think there have been a lot of bad wrecks because of texting while driving, and it should be banned. People don’t always pay attention when they’re driving. You’re definitely not watching the road or the other driver if you’re trying to text going down the highway.”

Some legislators said Alabama cities that have enacted texting bans have issued few tickets because a ban is hard to enforce – a statement local law enforcement agrees with, said Chief Deputy David Anderson of the Covington County Sheriff’s Office, who said he isn’t sure how the department will begin to enforce the legislation if signed into law.

Opp Chief Nickey Carnley said he will await the final draft of the law before deciding how to enforce it.

“We’ll have to decide what to do depending on how it’s written,” Carnley said of the legislation. “There is different ways to interpret and who knows what the final version will say.”

Proponents said most law-abiding drivers will quit texting if it is against the law.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says 37 states already prohibit texting while driving, including two of Alabama’s neighbors: Georgia and Tennessee.