Texting Ban in Alabama? Researchers say Teen Drivers Aren’t Getting the Message of Danger

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Alabama is set to become the 38th state in the nation to ban texting while driving, if the governor signs it into law.

Last week, legislators in both houses approved a bill to create the ban.

It comes after a new study out of Birmingham found the youngest drivers are not getting the message of the dangers of texting while driving.

In Decatur, officer Michael Hazel has kept a close eye on drivers for the last year, enforcing the city ordinance forbidding texting while driving.

He says he still sees people texting and driving.

But in the last year, Hazel says he and his colleagues have only issued a handful of citations for offenses.

“It’s a little more concentrated effort to catch somebody texting,” said Hazel.  “You want to make sure that you’re not catching somebody that’s actually dialing a number or something like that, so you have to watch them a little bit longer.”

Hazel added he sees drivers texting often when he’s in his personal vehicle, instead of his marked squad car.

And he’s not the only one concerned about it.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive for State Farm insurance in February found 57% of teenagers in the United State admit to texting while driving.

The survey of 652 teenagers, ages 14 to 17 years old, found many of them don’t see texting while driving as dangerous as drinking while driving.

Researchers found most teenagers who do not text and drive have frequent talks with their parents about the subject.  But researchers learned the conversation drops off once a teenager gets a license, which is when their crash risk is the highest.

Hazel says the actions of parents are very influential to their children and crucial for driving home the message that texting while driving can be a deadly combination.

“Drivers learn a lot from their parents and they should keep reinforcing that,” said Hazel.  “Texting is not a good thing to do.”

He said many witnesses to accidents report to officers on the scene that one of the drivers was either on a cell phone or texting, but when asked, most drivers deny it.

The new ban in Alabama would allow texting to emergency services.

It sets fines at $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second time, and $75 for each time after that.