Text trouble: New law goes into effect todayPublished 11:54am Friday, August 3, 2012
I submit this letter regarding the new Alabama texting while driving law with the intention to increase awareness, educate, promote safety, and encourage compliance.
The Alabama Legislature, although sensitive to safety, has struggled with moving forward on this issue for the past several years citing concerns of encroachment into personal liberties and enforcement concerns.
The Legislature did acknowledge that there are several distracted driving activities (such as eating, make-up, music) in addition to texting that also might compromise the alertness and safety of the driver and any occupants.
However, the continuing rise in teenage traffic fatalities coupled with the startling data revealing that a driver who is sending/reading a text or e-mail message is 23 times more likely to be involved in a wreck was compelling enough to stir the Legislature to action. That comes as no surprise when one is made aware that a driver reading/sending a text or e-mail has their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. Such a loss of focus with drastically reduced reaction time greatly endangers not only the older experienced or younger, less experienced driver, but as much so, the pedestrians, cyclists, and occupants of other vehicles who are on or near the road being traveled.
Much like when mandatory seat belt use became law, the same public concerns of government encroachment and enforcement surfaced with the proposed texting while driving bill. However, it is hard to argue the countless lives that have been saved with the passage of Alabama’s mandatory seat belt law. Likewise, the same results are expected with the implementation of the texting while driving law. Violators of the law which goes into effect Aug. 1 will receive a $25 fine for their first offense; second, $50; third and subsequent, $75. Also, for each violation, a driver will receive two points on their driving record which would very likely lead to increased vehicle insurance costs, especially for teenage drivers.
Should additional information be desired on this issue, AT&T has made available a most informative web site www.att.com/itcanwait in an effort to promote safe communication and avoid texting while driving. For young and old alike, in my efforts to promote public safety and reduce fatalities and/or serious injury on or along our roadways, I urge all drivers to be attentive to their driving, drive with a defensive awareness, and be in compliance with the law … including no texting while driving.
State Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, represents Escambia County in the Legislature.