Bill would ban handheld cell phone use while driving

Published 10:45 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019

Alabama may soon join another 16 states and Washington D.C. in making driving while using hand-held cell phones illegal.

Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, prohibits a person from holding or otherwise using his or her body to support a wireless communication device or stand-alone electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. This would include a wireless telecommunication device or standalone electronic device to watch, record, or capture a photograph or video while operating a motor vehicle.

Law enforcement, emergency responders, hands-free voice based communication devices and use of a cellphone as a navigational device will be exempted from the bill. The use of a wireless communication telecommunication device to obtain emergency services would also be exempted.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 37,461 deaths due to crashes in 2016, a driver being distracted by a cell phone or other similar object caused 3,450 of those deaths. Logan Benny said he was almost hit by a driver who was paying more attention to his phone than the road.

“We were in Troy and wanted to cross a road,” Benny said. “We looked both ways before deciding that the approaching driver had enough time to see us and slow down to allow us to pass. But he was talking on his phone and had to swerve into the bushes to not hit us. My friend had to jump out of the way and had he not, the driver could’ve killed him.

“The driver of the truck continued to talk on his phone and sped off without a word.”

“They can’t look up from their phone,” said Zachary Dashevsky of Troy .“I almost got hit on the crosswalk once. Luckily, the driver, slammed on the brakes in time. After that, she had her hand up apologetically and I had to stand there stunned with my near death experience.”

Alabama’s minimum fine of $25 for texting while driving is tied for the second lowest in the nation. This bill would increased the fine authorized.

The first offense will be a penalty of $50 and two points on the violator’s driving record, a second offense being $100 and two points. A third offense will be $150 and three points.

First-time offenders can have their charge dismissed if they present evidence to a judge that they’ve obtained a Bluetooth or some other form of a wireless device.

Senate Bill 6 was passed out of the House committee on March 20, giving way for a vote before being received by the State House.

Troy University journalism student YeeHans Ng of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia wrote this story as part of a project partly funded by the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation.