State texting ban a go

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 10, 2012


Alabama drivers have about three months to break a bad, and very dangerous, habit – texting while driving.

Gov. Robert Bentley signed the legislation into law on Tuesday that prohibits motorists from texting via cell phone, laptop or other wireless device while operating an automobile.

The new law goes into effect on Aug. 1.

Motorists caught texting while driving after Aug. 1 will face the following penalties:

• First offense: $25 fine

• Second offense: $50 fine

• Third offense: $75 fine

Now, law enforcement agencies are tasked with enforcing the law.

“It will be somewhat confusing and difficult to enforce,” said Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams. “The most likely scenario would involve the officer observing the driver using the device and moving their fingers around on the keyboard.  I think that the officer’s testimony would present enough probable cause for the judge to consider.

“If it became a serious matter, like in the case of a fatality or serious injury, we would apply for a search warrant to seize the records from the particular service provider to establish that the subject was in fact using the device to transmit a text message,” he said.

Police who see drivers texting may use this as a primary reason for pulling over a motorist.

Williams said citizens are “strongly encouraged” to realize how important it is to avoid anything that would distract their attention from safe driving habits.

“To me, texting is as dangerous as driving under the influence because both prevent the driver from being aware of all the things that they need to consider while operating a 3,000 pound projectile,” he said. “We realize that the most frequent abusers will be our young people because they normally fail to adequately assess the threats of the actions that they take or fail to take.

“We will enforce the law and will be prepared to present the best evidence possible in any court,” he said.

All offenses will count as a two-point violation on the offender’s driving record.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times greater than when a driver is not distracted. Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for about 4.6 seconds on average.

For a driver going 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field.