Does distracted driving bill go to far?
Two separate bills have been filed in the Alabama legislature to ban, not just texting and driving, but to even hold a phone while operating a motor vehicle. Representative Allen Farley from McCalla filed his in the House while Senator James McClendon is sponsoring a similar bill. There are already a number of states that ban holding a phone. Alabama has previously passed a law banning texting but this new bill, if enacted into law, would go further and prevent the mere holding of the phone. Fines of $50 to $150 are being proposed.
Representative Farley, who incidentally is a former law enforcement officer, believes that distracted driving caused by cell phone use while driving has become a part of the cause of many serious accidents, most notably a serious fatality occurring two years ago on I-65 involving a Thompson High School student.
As of 2018, 16 states make it illegal to hold or manually operate a cell phone while driving. While no state bans all use of cell phones while driving, some states allow emergency calling but ban phone use completely by teens or school bus drivers. Interestingly, almost all states ban texting while driving, except Missouri. The current movement is to go further than just texting and eliminate manual cell phone use all together.
Last year, Georgia became the next in line to make it illegal to manually operate cell phones while driving. Senator McClendon reports that his sources in Georgia indicate a reduction of motor vehicle accidents since passage of the new law. While it appears that Alabama’s proposed ban is based on the language of Georgia’s new law, it is presumed that those whose phones are linked to their vehicle can continue to make so-called “handsfree” texting and calling. The language of the Farley bill would include the physical holding or support of the phone, but again, not banning the use of the phone through hands-free means.