Over one and a half million crashes happen every year because of cell phone use while driving, according to the National Safety Council. A new bill that heads to the state legislature wants to change that by making the law stricter.
The proposed bill would make it illegal to use a cell phone if it doesn’t have a hands-free connection. This goes all the way down to restricting holding it and would mean a $50 fine for the first offense. The proposal comes with exemptions, like calling 9-1-1.
The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Allen Farley (R) District 15, says it’s meant to save lives.
“My granddaughter,” Farley began. “Her friend that was still at Thompson High School in Shelby County, she was coming down the interstate and she was texting and she looked up and she ran up underneath an 18-wheeler and it killed her right there.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports if you look down to read a text your eyes are off the road for five seconds. If you’re driving at 55 miles per hour that means you drive about the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
Farley says the bill would give more teeth to laws against texting and driving by making them more enforceable. A Huntsville Police spokesman agrees.
“It’s gonna give the officers ability to have better probable cause to stop somebody and actually enforce the citation,” said Lt. Michael Johnson.
But another state representative believes the bill goes too far and is unnecessary.
“The problem is not the cell phone. The problem is the distraction,” said Rep. Mike Ball (R) District 10. “I think our existing statutes cover the problem.”
Farley believes other lawmakers may have similar bill proposals. He thinks his has a good chance.
“It may be in inconvenience but I guarantee you if you talk to that mom that lost that senior, I guarantee you she’ll tell you that that’s an inconvenience we need to live with,” Farley said.
Similar legislation has passed in surrounding states. Farley says he’ll be passing the proposal along to first-responders to find out what they think of it.