Distracted driving bill passes Alabama House committee
A bill that would further restrict drivers from using cell phones while driving passed an Alabama House committee on Wednesday.
HB 8, sponsored by Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, got a favorable report from the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee despite concerns from a few lawmakers about some of the language contained in the proposal.
“This is not a minority bill or hurts minorities or anything else,” said Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston. “This is a safety factor. We want to protect lives. All it takes is for one person to make a mistake, and then you’re in serious trouble. We do not want that to happen. There are enough killings, and people getting killed, already.”
State law prohibits drivers from sending text messages while driving. Wood’s bill would extend the ban to holding a phone while driving or shooting photographs or video while doing so. Drivers would need to use hands-free devices.
A first violation would result in a$100 fine or 15 hours of community service. A second offense would increase it to $200 or 30 hours of community service. Subsequent violations would result in a $300 fine or 45 hours of community service.
The bill offers exceptions to the rule, such as calling emergency vehicles to respond to a scene or using the GPS on the device for navigation.
“If you have a loved one who is killed by something like this, then you know how important this is,” said Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, chair of the committee. “Put it down. We have got the technology to put these things down.”
Some had concerns about the bill’s language.
“One point in the legislative process, we always get to the situation where we try to take an idea that we have and make it work for everybody, and it gets to a point where it makes it difficult to work for anybody,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa. “We are dangerously approaching that threshold right now.”
England pointed to sections of the bill that focus more on law enforcement’s actions during a stop than a driver’s.“When you get to that point when you have a simple traffic stop based on a driver’s actions that now requires law enforcement to not do several things before they can do anything with it, you are almost getting to the point of undermining why you have it in the first place,” he said.
England then said he would work with Wood to address his concerns because he “wants to see it pass.”
The bill moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for consideration.