HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s now illegal to hold a cell phone when you’re behind the wheel of a moving vehicle in Alabama. If caught, you’re looking at a Class C misdemeanor.
A Huntsville city council member is looking to take this law a step further with the goal of making city streets safer.
Huntsville City Councilman David Little introduced an amended ordinance in August at a city council meeting, looking to strengthen the city’s existing law that restricts the use of wireless communication devices while driving.
If approved, the ordinance would prohibit drivers from doing any of the following while operating a vehicle:
- Using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, read or otherwise engage in any text-based communication;
- Watching, recording or capturing a photo or video;
- Engaging in voice-based communication while using a handheld wireless telecommunications device; or
- Physically holding or otherwise supporting a wireless telecommunications device with any part of their body.
The updated ordinance would also enable law enforcement to treat a handheld wireless communication device violation as a primary offense.
“The City’s existing ordinance is a no-texting ordinance, and it only allows officers to treat a violation as a secondary offense,” Little said. “It is also very hard to enforce. This amended legislation gives law enforcement the ability to issue citations more easily for handheld wireless communication device violations and keep our roadways safer.”
“No phone call, no text…I don’t care if it’s a business-related matter or you’re calling your spouse to tell them you’re running late getting home…none of those are worth dying over. None of those are worth getting injured, injuring someone else, or killing someone else,” stated Little.
In 2008, Little and his family were involved in a distracted driving-related car crash. It left him critically injured in the hospital for two weeks and in a wheelchair for three months. He’s since recovered and is using his experience to educate others about the dangers of distracted driving.
“I’ve learned that it’s still a problem. It’s a challenge to get laws at the state level, which we’ve tried for the last four, five years. The state did pass one back in April during the last legislative session but to be honest with you…it wasn’t a very good, in my opinion, law,” Little said.
Instructor Joseph Morrison with the Alabama Driving Academy of Huntsville says the proposal is a good step forward in preventing distracted driving.
“Maybe a nightmare to enforce but prioritizing that…that’s part of the responsibility that we have a hard time getting those kids to understand. When you’re behind the wheel of a car, it’s not just you – it’s everybody you’re interacting with,” said Morrison.
In reference to Alabama’s new hands-free law, Morrison tells News 19 it’s long overdue.
“90% of the accidents with the new drivers are due to distraction…and that’s not all blamed on texting and driving. I mean you can be distracted by a perfectly legal phone call, a billboard, anything you’re eating…anything other than that windshield is considered a distraction,” added Morrison.
The Huntsville City Council is expected to vote on the amended ordinance next Thursday, September 14th. If passed, it would take effect in January. Councilman Little is encouraging the public to attend.