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franklin county times

Governor signs texting ban

Texting while driving has always been dangerous, but starting in August, it will also be illegal.

Gov. Robert Bentley officially signed House Bill 2 into law on Tuesday, which will prohibit using a wireless device to send, write or read a text message, instant message or e-mail message while driving a motor vehicle.

The law will become effective on Aug. 1.

“Signing this bill sends a message that drivers need to focus on driving – not on sending a text,” Bentley said. “There is nothing so urgent that it is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by sending a text message while you are driving down the road.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving creates a crash risk that is 23 times greater than when a driver is not distracted.

Figures also show that sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which may not sound like a long time, but for a driver going 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field.

Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett has seen many crashes in his 21 years, many of which were caused by a distracted driver.

“It is important for drivers to understand that anything you do while driving that takes your focus off the road is hazardous not only to you but to other drivers on the road,” Hargett said. “People are in such a hurry these days to get where they are going that a distracted driver might not see someone make a quick lane change or come quickly to a stop.”

Hargett said those in a younger age bracket are most likely to be affected by this law when it goes into effect.

“Technology is second nature to kids,” he said. “Texting is a main form of communication for them, so it will be hard to get them to understand that you just don’t need to be doing it while you’re driving.

“But just as bad as technology can be, it can also be helpful. They make cars and devices now that allow you to answer your phone without ever having to look at it or call someone without having to take your eyes off the road. Technology like this would be worth the investment because it could mean the difference between a distracted driver and one whose focus is on the road.”

Those who still choose to violate the texting ban after it goes into effect will be faced with a $25 fine for a first-time offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third or subsequent offense.

Hargett said this may not seem like much of a punishment but the law also provides that each time someone is caught texting while driving, a two-point violation would be placed on the offender’s driving record, which could really add up.

“Once a person reaches a certain number of points on their driving record, their license is suspended for a certain number of days,” Hargett said. “A $25 fine might not seem too bad, but having to park your car for a month or two would be.”

According to the Department of Public Safety’s website, a person who incurs 12 to 14 points in a two to four year period will have their license suspended for 60 days; 15 to 17 points in the same time frame garners a 90-day suspension, 18 to 20 is a 120-day suspension and 24 and over is a full year’s suspension.

“Once the law goes into effect, we’ll be enforcing it just like any other law,” Hargett said. “The only concern I have is distinguishing whether a driver is texting someone or dialing a phone number, which wasn’t prohibited.

“It might make it difficult to distinguish, but we’ll do our best to look for the signs of someone who is texting or distracted, like weaving from side to side or driving erratically, and we’ll make sure they receive the proper citation for the offense.”