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Alabama’s Distracted Driving Laws Don’t Work. Here’s How to Protect Yourself

April 26, 2021

Like most states, Alabama has a law that limits texting and driving. But even though the police can stop you if you’re texting while driving in our state, this law hasn’t reduced the number of fatal distracted driving deaths. Instead, distracted driving-related crashes and deaths continue to rise.

Keep reading to learn about the newest developments in Alabama distracted driving laws and find out how you can protect yourself after a car accident that involves distracted driving.

Alabama’s Texting and Driving Laws Are a Start, But They Don’t Stop Cell Phone Use

Alabama has different cell phone laws for adults and minors. While our rules for teens are relatively strict, they become much more relaxed once a driver turns 18

Alabama Teens Can’t Use Handheld Devices While Driving

Alabama law limits the use of electronic handheld devices in motor vehicles. Teen drivers under 18 cannot use any mobile electronic device while driving. If a novice driver gets caught using one, they can face additional driver’s training requirements, up to $350 in fines, court costs, and the suspension of their driver’s license.

Adults Can’t Text, Email, or Message While Driving, but There Are Exceptions

For adults, Alabama’s texting and driving law is more complicated. The law only covers handheld cell phone use, devices like smartphones and computers, or older devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs). Alabama’s law does not cover hardwired screens like in-dash “infotainment” systems.

Also, our state’s prohibitions on electronic distractions are very limited. Under Alabama law, adults cannot write, send, or read text-based communication while driving. It’s also illegal to program an address into a GPS, navigation system, or wireless device while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

However, the texting ban doesn’t address video streaming services, games, or video chat apps. In other words, while adult drivers can’t check their email or post on Facebook, it’s technically legal for them to engage in equally risky behaviors like binge-watching television or playing Candy Crush. Alabama texting while driving law also allows drivers to dial phone numbers while driving and check their GPS systems and onboard infotainment systems.

Alabama doesn’t set additional standards for commercial drivers like those who operate delivery trucks, 18-wheelers, or school bus drivers. In many other states, commercial drivers must operate their communication devices in a hands-free mode.

Not only are our state’s distracted driving laws lax, but the penalties associated with violations are minor. The first offense only results in a $25 fine for an adult, and repeat offenders only face up to $75 in fines per incident. You’ll also get two points on your license for each violation.

RELATED: Teen Texting and Driving: Education About Risks Works

Distracted Driving Deaths Are Increasing in Alabama

Alabama’s texting and driving law went into effect in 2012. According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, there were only 24 fatalities and 429 severe injuries due to distracted and drowsy driving in 2009. In 2015, three years after the law went into effect, distracted and drowsy driving caused 84 deaths and 1,194 serious injuries.

And between 2010 and 2019, fatal pedestrian crashes increased by 81%. Many experts think that phone use and distracted driving have contributed significantly to this trend.

Furthermore, many distracted driving crashes go underreported since distracted driving is hard to prove. Many distracted drivers simply deny using their phones. According to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA), roughly 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving at any given time on U.S. roads.

Traffic safety experts note that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to cause a car wreck that someone who isn’t using their cell phone.

Traffic safety experts note that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to cause a car wreck that someone who isn’t using their cell phone.

RELATED: Dangers of Distracted Driving in Alabama

Some Alabama Lawmakers Are Pushing for a Hands-Free Driving Law

In early 2021, Alabama Representative K. L. Brown proposed a bill that would make it illegal to drive while holding a cell phone, record video, or take pictures while behind the wheel. Drivers would need to use hands-free devices to talk on the phone or use navigation apps while behind the wheel. In addition, the bill would include fines of $100 for a first offense, $200 for the second, and $300 for the third. The bill is still making its way through the House.

The Andy Citrin team is carefully monitoring this legislation.

3 Things You Need to Do After a Crash with a Distracted Driver in Alabama

If you suspect that a driver was sending text messages or using their phone during a crash, you need to act quickly to protect your legal rights. Most distracted drivers will deny using their phones, so proving distracted driving often requires careful and thorough investigation. Truckers and other commercial drivers are especially like to lie about distraction since they may face termination or discipline from their employer for violating company policies.

If a distracted driver hits and injures you, take the following steps:

1. Call 911 and Cooperate With the Law Enforcement Investigation

After a car accident, you should always call 911 and file an accident report. The police officer and other emergency services will come to the scene, tend to your injuries, and investigate the crash.

If you believe that distracted driving contributed to an accident, make sure you voice your concerns to the police so they can include them in the accident report.

2. Get Medical Help

Even if you don’t think you’re hurt “that badly,” you should still get medical attention as soon as you can. The adrenaline and stress of a crash can make injuries like whiplash, internal bleeding, or head wounds seem less bad than they are. Getting help quickly can help you avoid painful complications and expensive bills down the road. Plus, medical records act as valuable documentation in your case.

3. Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Who Knows How to Investigate a Distracted Driving Claim

Before you file a claim or discuss your injuries with an insurance company adjuster, you should always consult an experienced injury lawyer. You’ll need more than suspicions about texting or phone use to prove your injury claim.

RELATED ARTICLE: Most Common Causes of 18-Wheeler Accidents

It Takes a Skilled Investigator to Uncover Evidence of Distracted Driving

At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we know how to obtain cell phone records, text messages, witness statements, and other important evidence that can prove a driver was texting or distracted. For example, many semi-trucks have electronic monitoring systems that record drivers’ behavior. However, if you don’t move fast, the trucking company may destroy this evidence. Our lawyers act quickly and aggressively after a crash to preserve “black box” data, driver’s logs, dashcam footage, and other valuable information that can prove distraction and negligence in a distracted driving accident.

Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: Committed to a Safer Alabama

At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we believe that personal injury claims not only improve our clients’ lives but also make Alabama a safer place. If a distracted motorist caused your or a loved one’s serious injuries, contact our law firm today. We’d love to listen to your story and help you understand your legal options at no cost to you. To request your free consultation, fill out our quick and convenient online form or call us at 251-888-8888.

References

Alabama Department of Transportation. (2017, July). Alabama strategic highway safety plan. Montgomery, AL: Author. Retrieved from https://www.dot.state.al.us/dsweb/divted/TrafficSOS/pdf/Alabama_SHSP_081117.pdf

Barczewski, L. (2021, February 26). Alabama lawmakers consider bill calling for ban on handheld cell phone use while driving. NBC15 News. Retrieved from https://mynbc15.com/news/local/alabama-lawmakers-consider-bill-calling-for-ban-on-handheld-cell-phone-use-while-driving

Serious stats. (2020). Drive Safe Alabama. Retrieved from https://drivesafealabama.org/serious-stats/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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