Is the texting and driving ban being enforced?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama decided it was too dangerous to allow texting behind the wheel of a car. Since August of 2012  it’s been illegal to do that.  As of December 2013 only five police departments had reported writing any tickets for texting and driving, according to the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Their combined total for those 17 months was  79 citations.

  • Hoover Police- 12 
  • Daphne Police-   6
  • Oneonta Police-  1
  • Pelham Police- 15
  • University of Alabama Police – 45

(Source: Alabama Dept. Of Public Safety)

Either officers aren’t writing tickets or they aren’t reporting the numbers according to the Department of Public Safety.

Hoover Police Captain Jim Coker says the numbers may be low because enforcing the law is difficult for one main reason- it’s not against the law to dial a phone.

“If you’re using a smart phone the law is specific to texting. If you are doing something like looking up a map or making a phone call, that is not illegal. And we have to see you texting. There are times when we do see you texting and rest assured if we see you texting you will get a ticket,” said Capt. Coker.

Your odds of getting a ticket from an Alabama State Trooper for texting and driving appear to be a bit higher.  They issued 323 citations in that same 17 month window of time.  The first ticket costs $25, plus two points off your license, and potentially higher insurance rates, not to mention court costs. If you look at the total citation numbers and think the risk of getting a ticket for texting is low, Alabama State  Trooper Curtis Summerville will tell you the risk of getting in a wreck, and hurting, or killing someone and being tried for vehicular manslaughter is far greater than if you simply put down the phone.

According the the U.S. Department of Transportation a study found that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for about 4.6 seconds on average.  At 55 miles per hour that’s plenty of time to travel the length of a football field.

Trooper Summerville says if your reaction time is slower than normal by only three tenths of one second at 40 miles an hour that will increase your stopping distance by a whole three car lengths.

“So in other words where you would have stopped had you not been texting where you will stop because you were texting, you can now get three cars in between that distance so you know that may mean life or death for somebody. That little bit of few seconds may mean life and death for a child on a bicycle or someone just standing on the side of the roadway so again or just going through the intersection and hitting another car,” said Summerville.

It may be tough to enforce the law as is, but it’s certainly not impossible.  “We’ve written just under 400 citations so far for texting and driving,”said Summerville. The State Trooper says there will be little sympathy for a distracted driver who winds up injuring someone else or worse. “Let me say this, when we turn that finding over to the District Attorney’s Office we will indicate that that person was texting and driving. And it’s up to the District Attorneys office to go forward with charges if that person does seriously injure somebody so again we’re taking this quite seriously,” said Summerville.

Copyright 2014 WIAT-CBS42

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