A new law went into effect Wednesday prohibiting text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.
In accordance with the new law passed by state legislators and signed into law by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a public road, street or highway in Alabama while using a wireless telecommunication device to write, send or read a text-based communication.
“We will enforce the law,” said Sgt. Don Newton, the public information officer for the Pell City Police Department.
Newton said it is up to the discretion of individual officers whether that enforcement comes with a warning citation or ticket.
“Officers will look at the totality of the situation,” he said. “Obviously it’s a bit different when someone is speeding 50 mph down Martin Street while texting and someone who is stopped at a red light texting.”
But both are illegal, Newton warned.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.
“At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field blindfolded,” the NHTSA website states. “It’s extraordinarily dangerous.”
NHTSA warns that the youngest, most inexperienced drivers who are most at risk, with 16 percent of all distracted driving crashes involving drivers younger than 20 years.
“But they aren’t alone,” NHTSA states on its website. “At any given moment during daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.”
Newton said someone texting while driving could face more serious civil and criminal penalties if someone is injured or killed in an accident resulting from the violation of the new text messaging law.
In accordance with the new text messaging law, drivers could face a $25 ticket for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $75 for the third and subsequent offenses for text messaging while driving.
Violations of the law could also increase insurance rates for drivers, since it will go on an individual’s driving record.
“A conviction of this act shall be entered on the driving record of any individual charged under this act as a two-point violation,” the new law states.