By Gary Lloyd
The Trussville Police Department has issued just two citations for texting while driving since the law went into effect Aug. 1, 2012, Police Chief Don Sivley said Tuesday.
The law, 32-5A-350 in the Code of Alabama, says a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a public road, street or highway in Alabama while using a wireless telecommunication device to write, send or read a text-based communication.
Using a wireless communication device to obtain emergency services, while parked on the shoulder of a roadway or as a GPS system are not subject to the law’s restrictions.
Trussville police Lt. Jeff Bridges said the law is “pretty vague” and makes it tough for law enforcement to develop enough evidence to make a good case against a possible violator.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said last year that the bill “sends a message that drivers need to focus on driving — not on sending a text.”
“There is nothing so urgent that it is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by sending a text message while you are driving down the road,” Bentley said.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Jefferson County District Clerk’s office did not have information on how many citations they have issued since the law went into effect. The district clerk’s office does not keep up with traffic citations by category — speeding and texting while driving, among others — according to a representative from the office.
“Technology is great and texting is a great communication tool but an incredibly dangerous tool to use when driving,” said Jefferson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Randy Christian. “We have got to get people out of that habit. Just one second of inattention at the wheel of a car can have deadly consequences, especially for young inexperienced drivers.”
According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving creates a crash risk that is 23 times greater than when a driver is not distracted. Also, sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. For a driver going 55 mph,that’s the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field.
The fine for violating the law is $25 for a first-time offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third or subsequent offense. Also, for each offense, a two-point violation will be placed on the offender’s driving record.
Christian said the law is difficult to enforce because it can be hard to see a driver breaking the law. It’s also difficult to prove someone was texting once they’re pulled over. Christian has a simple solution to the problem.
“Just don’t do it,” he said.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.