Alabama has finally joined the vast majority of states with a statewide ban against texting while driving. Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill into law last month that will become effective on August 1, 2012. The Senate and House unanimously approved this legislation that will make emailing and texting while driving illegal. Many cities, including Huntsville and Madison, have already enacted no-texting ordinances aimed at drivers. This new statewide law will cover areas in between.
Thirty-seven states already ban text messaging for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association in Washington. Hopefully, the Legislature’s next focus will be a move toward allowing only hands-free wireless devices for drivers. That is badly needed since sending text messages while trying to drive is both foolish and outright dangerous. Even just a few seconds of inattention can prove fatal to a driver, a pedestrian or bicyclist, or other motorists. No text is really so important that it can’t wait. Sending a text message is never worth the risk of causing a highway collision. All drivers should remember their cell phone records can be subpoenaed in a lawsuit.
While this new text ban law will be difficult to enforce, its passage is certainly a good thing. If nothing else, the knowledge that it’s against the law will deter some drivers from texting. In that event it will have achieved its purpose. The new law will ban anyone from operating a vehicle on a public road or highway while manually using a cellphone or other wireless device to communicate by text message, instant message or electronic mail. Each conviction will carry a 2-point penalty on a person’s driving record. A person’s driver’s license is suspended for at least 60 days if he or she gets 12 or more points in a two-year period.
The new law won’t ban people from talking on cellphones while driving, a restriction that some states have imposed. I believe that such a ban is also needed. Drivers using cellphones are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to kill or injure themselves, and possibly others. Studies show cell phone use while driving can be every bit as dangerous – and sometimes more so – as driving drunk.
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