Alabama bill to ban cell phone use for young drivers dies

| 5/8/2008

Alabama’s youngest drivers don’t have to worry about putting down wireless devices while at the wheel.

The state’s House killed a bill – HB17 – that sought to make it illegal for teens younger than 17 to use any type of cell phone while driving. The ban would have applied to “hands-free” and hand-held devices.

Opponents said there already are laws to prevent distracted and unsafe driving. Others said using the phone while at the wheel isn’t a distraction for drivers, including teens, who are responsible.

Police could have ticketed violators only after pulling them over for another offense, such as speeding or failure to signal. Teens found in violation would have faced $25 fines. Repeat offenders would have faced $50 fines, and subsequent offenses would have resulted in $75 fines.

The measure was amended in committee to exempt emergency calls.

Two other changes made to the bill called for prohibiting points from being assessed on offenders’ driver’s licenses. However, violations would have been reported to insurance companies.

Efforts to minimize restrictions for young drivers are drawing more attention in recent years. A recent National Transportation Safety Board report recommended that novice drivers be prohibited from using cell phones while on the road.

The safety board reported that young drivers account for only 7 percent of the driving population but are involved in 15 percent of fatal accidents. Distracted drivers take 1.5 seconds longer to respond to hazards, the agency reported.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor