Alabama law enforcement officers have tracked a notable increase in traffic fatalities in recent years, and evidence from these crashes indicates distracted driving is the most likely culprit. Driving while distracted is incredibly dangerous for several reasons, and new laws in Alabama aim to reduce the number of fatalities caused by distracted driving.
What is Distracted Driving?
“Distracted driving” may sound like a simple enough concept, but it’s important to recognize that many drivers engage in certain dangerous actions behind the wheel without realizing it. A typical driver may not think that changing a radio station or exchanging CDs in the car would be too hazardous, but the reality is that taking one’s attention off the road for even a few seconds can have disastrous consequences for the distracted driver and everyone else nearby.
Distractions can cause a driver’s mind to wander or divert his or her gaze away from the road ahead. When drivers use their hands to adjust the stereo, eat, or fiddle with other things inside the car, they are not fully prepared to handle changing conditions on the road. While stereos, cosmetics, food, and roadside sights may be common causes of distracted driving, the number one cause of distracted driving accidents is cell phone use.
Texting and Driving
Many people, especially teens, report they regularly use their phones to read and send text messages while driving. This is incredibly dangerous because it effectively distracts the driver’s hands, eyes, and attention from the road all at once.
In 2012, Alabama state lawmakers passed a law against texting while driving. Specifically, the law prohibits drivers from sending, reading, or writing text-based messages with any type of handheld wireless telecommunication device while driving. The penalties are relatively mild. A first offense will incur a fine of $25, a second offense will lead to a $50 fine, and a third offense will be a $75 fine. Using a phone in such a manner while driving is sufficient cause for police to pull over a driver and issue a citation. Texting while driving citations will also incur demerit points on the driver’s license. “Novice drivers,” or drivers age 16 or 17, are prohibited from any cell phone use at all while driving.
Damages from Distracted Driving
These fines may seem light in comparison to the damage distracted driving can cause, however, they function as a deterrent to hopefully discourage drivers from texting while driving. The real cost of a distracted driving incident is the damage and injuries an accident can cause.
The American Automotive Association (AAA) reports that more than half of all teen drivers admitted to using a cell phone while driving when surveyed. While drivers of all age groups have caused major accidents from distracted driving, teen drivers are generally the demographic with the highest degree of risk. Teens who text while driving stand to incur heavy fines, license suspension, civil actions from the other drivers they harm, and possibly even criminal prosecution. It’s important for Alabama drivers of all ages to understand the reasoning behind the state’s distracted driving laws and do their best to follow the traffic laws.