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Alabama House Passes Texting Ban

The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban drivers in the state from sending or writing text messages while driving. The bill includes details on punitive measures and methods of enforcement. It was passed overwhelmingly by the state House in spite of some legislators' concerns over the ability of police officers in the state to effectively enforce the bill if it were to become law. The texting while driving bill now awaits action from the state Senate.

Overview of Alabama House Legislation

The new bill in the form passed the Alabama House calls for a ban on state drivers writing and sending text messages from mobile devices while they are driving on state roads and highways. It gives police primary enforcement privileges, meaning they can pull motorists over for this infraction without having any other reason. But correspondingly, the language of the bill would also ban officers pulling over drivers for texting from searching vehicles pulled over for this offense. The bill would also ban drivers from manually operating a global positioning system device while driving.

The punitive end of the bill is primarily financial in its nature. If it becomes law, drivers who are caught sending or writing text messages while driving will be subject to a $25 fine upon conviction. A second offense would bring a $50 fine, with all subsequent convictions carrying $75 fines. In all cases, the guilty driver convicted would also be responsible for paying any court costs associated with litigation in the matter. The bill has no language regarding jail time or probation attached to conviction, but does include a provision attaching a point to a driver's Alabama license in the event of conviction. As a driver your license can be pulled if you accumulate 12 points.

The bill seeking to ban texting while driving was passed by a vote of 95-3 even while a few detractors openly questioned its enforceability. The bill's sponsor, state Representative Jim McClendon (R-Springville) said that sending text messages while driving is equal or worse to drinking and driving in terms of the safety hazard it presents [1]. While McClendon's statement may represent a certain kind of politically-charged hyperbole, the message nonetheless is clear. Making a decision to text while you are behind the wheel of a car is not simply a personal choice, because it affects the safety of other drivers on the road and not just yourself-much like the decision to drive while under the influence of alcohol.

Texting Common Target of Lawmakers

This is not the first time a measure seeking to ban text messaging while driving has seen the Alabama House floor. A similar measure actually passed the House in 2009, but died in the Senate. With increased nationwide scrutiny on distracted driving in general and texting as a driving behavior in particular, it will be informative to note the progress of the bill on the floor of the state Senate. One thing is for certain: this issue is not going away any time soon. With all the attention texting is receiving under the auspices of distracted driving behaviors, the national media and lawmakers alike are taking more and more of an interest in the topic as something to focus on.

In fact, states all across the country have passed similar measures or are in the process of doing so. At least seven states plus the District of Columbia have laws on the books banning drivers from writing and sending text messages while their cars are in motion. At least nine others have additional legal provisions disallowing young or inexperienced drivers from texting while they are behind the wheel. Resolutions similar to the one being explored in the Alabama legislature are in various stages of discussion or debate in legislative chambers across the country.

Many proponents of such measures agree with McClendon's assessment of the dangers of texting. They see it as a growing danger requiring legal intervention to curb its rising popularity among drivers of all ages and demographics nationwide. In fact, in various surveys conducted by advocacy groups and auto insurers over the past few years, drivers have shown a great deal of support for this kind of legislative action. Many drivers who admit to texting while driving in these types of surveys readily admit the hazard of engaging in these types of behaviors.

But as readily noted by opponents of the Alabama bill, there is also at least an undercurrent of feeling nationwide that this type of legislation will be very difficult to effectively enforce. Some wonder whether zones set up similarly to speed traps and seat belt enforcement zones could help build awareness of the seriousness of laws in states that have already banned texting while driving. Others may question whether the relatively small fines attached to the Alabama bill would really prove an effective deterrent even if enforcement measures were devised to give officers ways to control this behavior on the road.

In a lot of ways, texting bans are similar to seat belt laws in that the biggest threat they pose to a lot of busy motorists is the threat of serious inconvenience. Drivers who are caught texting are quite often on their way to work or other important destinations. Millions of drivers nationwide operate on a tight schedule from the time they get up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night. One of the biggest draws of text messaging technology is its ability to help the user stay productive while away from the office or home. This type of legislation threatens that ability for a lot of people, and its enforcement would also likely threaten the clockwork fashion in which many text technology users go through their daily routines. It seems as though some kind of adjustment might become necessary, whether it be completely abstaining from texting while driving, or in drivers adopting voice-controlled hands-free means of communicating while behind the wheel.

Text Messaging and Car Insurance

As the issues of text messaging in particular and distracted driving in general both continue to gain prominence on the national political landscape, it is worth taking the time to consider the effects of such distracted driving behaviors on auto insurance. As an industry, auto insurers have had to respond to thousands of distracted driving-related auto accidents, many of them resulting in injuries and deaths. As technology has continued to evolve and develop, it has given users the means to do more and get more done while being more accessible anywhere they go.

But at the same time, the advent and sharp rise in popularity of these indispensable items have also given drivers more things to distract them, and more opposing items vying for their attention while they are behind the wheel. The end result of the increased rate of distracted driving accidents has been increased costs tied to taking on risk of insuring drivers who might be likely to use these items and potentially engage in distracted driving behaviors as a result. The Alabama legislation is just one more sign that this issue is far from being resolved in people's minds nationwide.

 

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