Law: Dnt txt n drv

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

If you think texting while you are sitting at a red light is safe — and not in violation of a new law banning texting while driving — you’re wrong.

The law that supporters hope will save lives goes into effect today, and violators caught texting while driving will be fined.

The law, signed by Gov. Robert Bentley in May, carries fines and penalties for motorists who fail to comply.

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Escambia County Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said officers across the state will now be watching to see if motorists are abiding by the law.

“This law has been put in place to save lives,” Lambert said. “As law enforcement officers, it’s our duty to uphold the law and we will be watching for violators.”

Lambert said a campaign to encourage motorists not to text and drive is circulating on TV and radio.

“I think the campaign will help some, and that’s good,” Lambert said. “But, no matter how good the messages are, there will still be some people who don’t pay attention to the new law.”

Lambert said motorists should be mindful of texting practices with any texting done behind the wheel.

“You may be sitting at a red light and texting,” Lambert said. “Even though you may be stopped, if the car isn’t in park and you’re behind the wheel, it’s considered texting and driving and is subject to fines and penalties. The only sure way to make sure you don’t break this new law is to pull off the road into a safe spot and stop the car before you text or read texts. We hope this new law will remind people to practice safe driving.”

Throughout the state, officials have said the new law will certainly be a reminder to drivers who are guilty of texting behind the wheel of an automobile.

Public Safety Department Director Col. Hugh McCall said sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eye off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds or equivalent to the time it takes a car going 55 mph to travel the length of a football field.

Bentley said the law makes sense when it comes to saving lives.

“It doesn’t take a lot of common sense to know that you can’t text and drive at the same time,” Bentley said before signing the bill in May. “I think this will at least remind people you should not text and drive at the same time. Even though the penalties are not great, it is just reminding people not to do that.”

Penalties for breaking the texting while driving law increase with each offense according to a breakdown of fines in the law. The first offense would carry a fine of $25 and increase to $50 for the second offense. On third and subsequent offenses, fines increase to $75. Each offense would also place a two-point violation on a person’s driving record, which would increase automobile insurance costs, officials said.

The new law prohibits sending and receiving text messages, instant messages and emails while operating a motor vehicle. It does not prohibit dialing a phone.