While distracted driving is certainly a national issue, it has also had a pronounced effect on three of Alabama’s most beloved counties.
Over the past six years, in Mobile County, 16% accidents can be traced back to some form of distracted driving. Baldwin County has also been impacted to a significant degree, with over 15% of accidents attributed to some form of distracted driving incident. Finally Escambia County has seen over 14% of traffic accidents caused by distracted driving.
In these three Alabama counties alone, distracted driving accidents have resulted in over 150 fatalities and over 550 incapacitating injuries in less than seven years , making distracted driving a key safety issue for the citizens of these three counties and the state of Alabama as a whole.
Defining Distracted Driving in Alabama
While most drivers are aware that texting is a leading cause of car crashes, there are many other ways a driver can be distracted on the road. The state of Alabama specifically defines activities that constitute distracted driving. Texting is the clear leader on any definition of distracted driving since, according to the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, since a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a car accident compared to a non-texting driver.
Other Forms of Distracted Driving
However, Alabama also targets other uses of a phone while operating a vehicle, noting that using a cell phone or a smartphone is also within the definition of distracted driving. Sending e-mails, having a phone conversation or checking the latest sports scores are all forms of distracted driving in Alabama. Beyond all types of phone usage, eating and drinking while driving also qualifies as distracted driving.
Other forms of distracted driving include behaviors such as:
- watching videos
- talking to other passengers
- using a navigation system such as GPS
While Alabama recognizes all of these forms of distracted driving, only one form of distracted driving is considered a driving offense in the state of Alabama. Alabama became the 38th state to ban texting while driving in 2012, providing a scaling fine structure. First offenders are fined $25 in Alabama, whereas second and third offenders are fined $50 and $75, respectively.
What’s Next for Alabama’s Distracted Driving Laws?
No other form of distracted driving have been banned under Alabama law, but some Alabama representatives believe the current distracted driving definitions and legislation against texting and driving do not go far enough. As a result, there was a push to expand the distracted driving definitions to include activities other than texting while also making distracted driving a ticket-worthy offense. Writing, reading, petting a dog or engaging in personal grooming all would have constituted distracted driving offenses under the proposed bill.
The bill was ultimately rejected on a procedural vote, 41-46 by the Alabama house, preventing the proposed fine structure for these types of distracted driving from being implemented. The bill proposed a $25 fine for a first distracted driving offense, which would be followed by $50 and $75 fines for second and third-time offenders, which are the same fines already in place for violating the texting and driving ban.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact Noel B. Leonard. He is an experienced Foley injury lawyer and Alabama accident attorney who represents victims of distracted driving accidents everyday in Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile Counties. Call 251-732-2701 or Contact Attorney Leonard online to receive the expert legal assistance you deserve.