This summer, Alabama finally joined the U.S. states that ban handheld cellphone use while driving. Gov. Kay Ivey signed Senate Bill 301 into law in June, making it a Class C misdemeanor for a motorist to hold and operate a cellphone.
This represents progress in the battle against distracted driving, which causes numerous major car accidents in Mobile, the rest of Alabama and the entire country. In Alabama alone, 67 people were killed in car accidents caused by distracted drivers.
Not the strongest version of the law
But it’s also one of the weaker anti-handheld phone use laws in the country. For one thing, using your phone while driving is only a secondary offense. Police officers will not be able to pull over a motorist on suspicion of texting and driving. Instead, they can add a cellphone infraction when ticketing a driver for speeding, running a red light or other primary offenses. Other states have made distracted driving a primary offense.
Also, though the statute carries fines and points on your driver’s license, that part of the law won’t kick in until June 2024. For the first year, police can only issue a warning to drivers for handling their phones. After that, a first offense will cost $50 and add a point to your license, and a second one within 24 months will carry a $100 fine and add two points to your license. As a reminder, 12-14 points accumulated within a 24-month period trigger a 60-day license suspension.
Hopefully, fewer distracted driving car crashes
Lawmakers hope this law will encourage drivers to limit their cellphone use to hands-free options. Experts agree that drivers distracted by their phones, food or almost anything have reduced awareness of their surroundings and slowed reaction times. Laws designed to discourage using your hands for texting, calling and app use while driving can only help make Alabama’s roads and highways safer. But they cannot eliminate distracted driving and the injuries such behavior causes.