Alabama lawmaker seeks cell phone ban for young drivers

| 12/12/2007

Alabama’s youngest drivers soon could be prohibited from using wireless devices while at the wheel if a state lawmaker gets his way.

Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, is pushing legislation that would make it illegal for teens under 17 to use any type of cell phone while driving. The ban would apply to “hands-free” and hand-held devices.

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

Offenders would be assessed three points on their driver’s licenses. Violations would not be reported to insurance companies.

If approved, Alabama would join 17 other states with bans on cell phone use for young drivers.

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 says 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 says.

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

The Alabama bill – HB17 – is in a House committee awaiting consideration during the regular session that starts Feb. 5.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor