GPS services can still be used, but coordinates must be programmed before the car is in motion. Text communications may also be read, sent or composed while the car is in park on the shoulder of the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average 4.6 seconds, which they equate to a driver blindly traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph.
Law enforcement officials may treat any violation of this order as a primary violation, or the sole reason for pulling someone over. The first offense carries a $25 fine for a first violation, $50 fine for a second violation and $75 for a third violation. A conviction is a two-point violation against the driver’s license of the convicted.
The lower-than-normal fines were created because the majority of violators are expected to be teenagers whose parents will be footing the bill. According to Sumiton Police Chief T.J. Burnette, the majority of drivers he’s seen have issues with texting behind the wheel were in this age group.
“I think it’s a good thing they’ve passed this law because I personally have stopped and warned or contacted parents of kids who have run red lights and things like that while texting and driving,” Burnette said.
Data from 2011 is not yet available, but 2010 data collected from all Alabama law enforcement agencies showed that “distracted by use of electronic communication device” was listed as a contributing circumstance in 1,256 crashes, resulting in 5 deaths.
Supporters and law enforcement officials are hopeful this law will decrease risks on the road and protect drivers and passengers.
"This law will have a positive impact on highway traffic safety in Alabama because the majority of Alabamians will stop texting while driving simply because they are law abiding citizens,” said Sgt. Steve Jarrett, of the Alabama Department of Public Safety’s Public Information and Education Unit. “Those who choose not to comply will continue to risk a crash and after Aug. 1, a ticket."