Alabama lawmakers debate distracted driving bill

Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 at 7:28 PM EST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - House lawmakers debated a bill Thursday aimed at stopping distracted driving.

Rep. K. L. Brown, R-Calhoun, sponsored the bill making it illegal for people to hold their phones while driving in Alabama.

“A lot of families in our state have lost loved ones, several in particular that I’ve talked to, due to distracted driving,” he said.

For Brown, this is personal as well. His daughter died in a car crash.

“It’s definitely a distraction to talk on a cellphone in a car. And this bill would would keep anyone from from talking on a cellphone, taking pictures, watching videos, any of that kind of thing, while the car is moving,” said Brown.

People could still use Bluetooth devices for their phones.

But the bill still faced controversy on the House floor Thursday. Several lawmakers called the bill flawed and said it is too broad.

“What’s the difference between holding a comb in your hand? Or holding a cup in your hand?” said Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham.

Givan is concerned people may face penalties for simply holding their phone without looking at while driving.

“I really do think conceptionally it is fantastic. The practical application of it and the enforcement piece of it, I think it’s flawed,” said Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper.

The penalties for holding a phone while driving include a $100 fine for the first infraction, a $200 fine for the second time, and $300 fine for the third time. Lawmakers said on the floor that holding the phone can’t be the primary reason an officer pulls someone over.

Lawmakers did not vote on the bill Thursday. They plan to make changes to it first.

In 2019, this bill has passed out of the House but did not pass the Senate.

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