Law enforcement praises texting-while-driving ban

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Local law enforcement personnel are praising a bill signed into law by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley banning texting and emailing while driving.

The bill, which previously passed the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives and is set to go into effect Aug. 1, makes it illegal to drive while manually writing, sending or reading text-based communications such as text messages or emails.

The bill does not outlaw driving while using a voice-operated device to communicate or send text-based messages “without the use of either hand except to activate or deactivate a feature or function,” read the bill. The bill allows drivers to manually enter a telephone number “for the purpose of making a telephone call.”

The bill also allows drivers to use a wireless communication device to obtain emergency services, use a wireless communication device while parked on the shoulder of a road and use a phone as a GPS as long as the phone “has been pre-programmed” with the desired coordinates.

Alabaster Deputy Police Chief Curtis Rigney and Pelham police Capt. Larry Palmer said his department has responded to a significant number of wrecks believed to be caused by texting while driving.

“It’s hard to determine for sure if a wreck was caused by that,” Rigney said. “If we suspect it played a role, we will determine that through phone records.”

Rigney said the texting-while-driving ban will help combat a slew of potential driver distractions.

“I am in support of any bill that deals with drivers not paying 100 percent attention,” Rigney said. “A lot of people don’t realize that driving on a public right of way is a privilege, not a right, and it comes with a huge amount of responsibility.

“Hopefully, this will deter those people who are districted by their phones,” Rigney added.

Palmer said the law was a “great idea,” and said distracted driving has caused many wrecks in the department’s jurisdiction over the past several years.

“I am in big support of this. I think it’s going to be a very positive thing for our state,” Palmer said.