Driving while distracted is rapidly becoming one of the leading causes of car accidents. In 2016, there were roughly 1,500 accidents caused by drunk driving in Alabama, over three times the amount in 2009. And that number, researchers say, could be drastically underestimated.
The epidemic of distracted driving has caused some activists – including a mother who lost her 17-year-old daughter to driving while using a cell phone – to push for tougher laws against distracted driving in hopes to discourage people from using electronic devices while driving, the primary reason these accidents occur.
The mother in question, Michelle Lunsford, has complained to state legislators about the weak penalties for driving while distracted. If you violate the 2012 law against texting while driving (there is currently no law for talking on the phone or using other electronic devices while behind the wheel), you’ll be fined just $25 for your first offense and $75 for your third offense.
Activists like Lunsford would like to see much stiffer consequences, plus laws that forbid holding a cell phone at all while driving like the law just passed in Georgia.
We’ve talked previously about how using hands-free devices can be just as dangerous and distracting as having the phone in your hand. It’s likely that the new law in Georgia will have a limited effect on the dangers of driving while distracted, because even when you’re using a hands-free device – or messing around with your car’s entertainment system – you’re still taking your focus off the road where it belongs.
Should Alabama pass tougher laws against distracted driving and go even further than other states in banning cell phone use altogether?
It would be difficult to get voters to support a law that completely bans cell phone or electronic device use while behind the wheel. Most drivers like using phones, and fancy in-car entertainment systems with touchscreen controls are becoming standard in new cars – which consumers love.
And tougher laws don’t necessarily mean that people will abide by them. Alabama has above-average laws against speeding and reckless driving in terms of strictness, but people still speed and drive recklessly.
However, strong consequences can deter unwanted behavior. Arizona has the toughest DUI laws in the nation, and since passing them over the past decade, they have seen a substantial decrease in drunk driving incidents.
Consequences have to be severe, though, in order to deter people from violating the law. The question is, do you as a voter support penalties that are tough enough to keep people from driving distracted?
If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, contact an Alabama car accident lawyer at Wettermark Keith. Our consultations are always free and we only charge a fee if we get a recovery for you.