HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The topic hits close to home for Huntsville City Council Member, David Little.
“There’s nothing on your phone, there’s no call, no music, there’s nothing that’s worth dying or hurting somebody over,” he told News 19.
In an interview with News 19, he recalled his own experience dealing with a distracted driver.
“It was about five days before Christmas, and as we were driving home on Highway 36, a young man was texting his father that he was on the way home from a church Christmas party,” he said. “He [the young driver] tried to stop, but hit a vehicle and then he came into our lane and we hit him head-on.”
Little was in the car with his wife and kids when the crash happened in 2008. Thankfully, his wife and children were able to get out of the vehicle on their own.
It was a different story for Little. “I was pinned in the car, needed the jaws of life, the whole nine yards,” he recalled.
Little sustained many injuries, but survived.
“I ended up spending about two weeks in the hospital,” he said. “I had a broken hip, dislocated hip, broken ribs, punctured lung, broken nose, and broken collarbone.”
It has been nearly 15 years since the crash. Since then, Little has joined others in bringing awareness to distracted driving.
That includes speaking engagements and participating in awareness campaigns. He previously shared his story, more in-depth, with News 19 in 2016 as part of our Distracted Driving Project.
While cell phone use is a major distraction while driving, it isn’t the only one.
“Anything in the car that takes your eyes off of the roadway, takes your mind off of the roadway, people simply thinking about their day and thinking about what they’re going to do later in the day versus what they’re doing right now is distracted driving,” said Huntsville Police Department Traffic Homicide Investigator, David Broom.
Officer Broom said he has seen the worst of the worst traffic accidents. Many times, the fatal accidents he responds to are due to distracted driving.
“I’ve seen people die in car wrecks, and that’s what we want to prevent,” he said.
Both Broom and Little support the idea of driving without distractions.
David Little is a supporter of creating stronger cell phone laws in Alabama.
“This is our fourth year now, trying to get a hands-free bill in Montgomery,” he said.
He is referring to H.B. 8, which is currently stalled in the House.
The Alabama Legislature describes H.B. 8 as:
“Relating to motor vehicles; to amend Sections 32-5A-350, 32-5A-351, and 32-5A-352, Code of Alabama 1975, and to add Sections 32-5A-350.1 and 32-5A-353 to 32-5A-359, inclusive, to the Code of Alabama 1975, to provide prohibitions on the use of a wireless telecommunications device while operating a motor vehicle, with exceptions; to further provide criminal penalties; to provide exemptions; to distribute a portion of any fines collected to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs for the purchase of devices to enable substantially hands-free voice-based communications in a motor vehicle and to provide the devices to certain low-income families in the state; and in connection therewith would have as its purpose or effect the requirement of a new or increased expenditure of local funds within the meaning of Section 111.05 of the Constitution of Alabama of 2022.”Alabama Legislature
While there is not currently a hands-free law in Alabama, there are laws pertaining to texting and driving and watching videos while driving.
📲Download the WHNT News 19 App to stay updated on the go.
📧Sign up for WHNT News 19 newsletters to have news sent to your inbox.
🏆Find today’s top stories on WHNT.com for North Alabama and southern Middle Tennessee.
Officer Broom said he frequently writes citations for people who are doing those things.
“This morning I stopped somebody and they told me they were watching a TikTok while they were driving,” he said. “They did receive a ticket for that,” he added.
The fines for those offenses aren’t cheap.
“It is a high fine, and I’m sure somebody would like to spend that money on something else.”
Council Member Little said he is interested in strengthening the Ordinances in the City of Huntsville if H.B. 8 fails.
“We’re trying to add some teeth to our existing ordinance here in Huntsville, that’s a no-texting ordinance that’s very hard to enforce,” he said. “So, hopefully, we will have something like a hands-free type ordinance for the city if the state can’t do it.”
Distracted Driving Awareness Month is a campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You can learn more about it here. Local law enforcement agencies, like HPD, have joined the effort in spreading awareness.