State targets texting ban

Published 6:44 pm Friday, April 27, 2012

The City of Demopolis in December 2010 passed an ordinance banning texting while driving.

The State of Alabama, this week, appears to be ready to follow suit. A bill (HB 2) that won final legislative approval this week would ban texting and driving for all drivers on public roads and highways in Alabama. The bill needs only Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature to become law.

The bill would prohibit anyone from operating a vehicle on a public road or highway while manually using a cell phone or other wireless device to communicate by text message, instant message or email.

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However, the ban does not include driver’s securing emergency services; a driver whose vehicle is parked on the shoulder of a road or highway, or a driver getting directions from a navigation or global-positioning system (GPS).

The bill is expected to take effect this summer.

Should the bill become law, anyone violating the ban would face a fine of $25 for a first conviction, $50 for a second and $75 each for further convictions.

Each conviction also would carry a 2-point penalty on a person’s driving record. A person’s driver’s license is suspended for a minimum of 60 days if they accumulate 12 or more points in a two-year period.

The penalties the sate law would carry supersede those already in place in Demopolis, which are actually heavier than those imposed by the state. Currently, by the city’s ordinance, any person found in violation faces a fine of not more than $50 or imprisonment for not more than 10 days. The second offense in a 12 month span warrants a $100 fine and with a third offense, violators face fines up to $500.

“City ordinances can’t conflict with state law,” Demopolis Police Chief Tommie Reese said. “When this law is made official, the city ordinance and its penalties will basically be moot. We’ll have to enforce the state law with the state’s guidelines.”

The bill does not ban drivers from talking on cell phones while driving. The Demopolis ordinance also allows for drivers to talk on the phone and operate a GPS device while driving.