Sorry to start on such a negative note, but there are roughly 155,000 car accidents every year in Alabama. And most of these are simple distracted driving mistakes that are completely preventable.
That’s why arguably THE most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Drive Safe Alabama, a division of the Alabama Department of Transportation, calls it “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Seems simple enough, right? This includes everything from smearing on your lipstick in the mirror to sending out Snapchats.
Most distracted driving actions, while dangerous, are somehow considered legal. Alabama’s lawmakers are currently focused on preventing accidents that are caused by texting or emailing while behind the wheel, but that’s only a small piece of a much larger, and dangerous, puzzle.
Distracted Driving Statistics in Alabama
You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Alabama:
Alabama has the 2nd highest rate of fatal car accidents in the United States.
In 2017, distracted driving was the cause of at least 40 fatalities in this state.
A 2018 study by the Journal of Adolescent Health found that 43% of teen drivers in Alabama text while driving.
To help reduce, though ideally eliminate, the problem, nearly every state in the country has created laws that prohibit texting while driving at the minimum. Many go even further with hands-free laws and more.
Here’s where each US state stands on texting while driving laws as of 2019
Does Alabama Have Laws against Distracted Driving?
As you can see above, every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage while driving except Montana and Arizona. However, in 2021, Arizona will roll out new cell phone restriction laws. You’re next, Montana.
In 2012, Alabama became the 38th state to ban texting while driving. And in 2019, a bill was proposed that would have made it illegal for all drivers to use handheld cell phones. Unfortunately, it never became law after passing through the state House, because it didn’t get the approval it needed in the Senate. Which means handheld cell phone use is still permitted. For now, at least.
Currently, the state of Alabama only prohibits:
Text messaging and Internet use by all drivers
The use of any kind of cell phone, even hands-free, by drivers under the age of 18
Still, local lawmakers have been working toward making the use of handheld devices while driving illegal. While recent attempts to pass this law have been unsuccessful, representatives like K.L. Brown continue to fight the fight.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Distracted Driving Laws in Alabama?
As we’ve shown you, the laws around here are pretty lenient. And they do not apply to:
Wireless devices being used to contact emergency services, like the police or paramedics
Anyone using their phone while parked on the shoulder of the road
Using a preprogrammed GPS, like Google Maps or Waze
So understand what the laws say, be cautious and prepared, and if you want to be caller number 10 to win concert tickets on the radio, pull off to the shoulder.
Alabama Distracted Driving Laws at a Quick Glance
Is texting while driving legal?
Can you send/receive texts at a red light?
Is handheld device use permitted?
Any special restriction for young drivers?
Is headphone/headset use permitted?
Is It Legal To Eat a Cheeseburger while Driving in Alabama?
Well yeah, but that doesn’t mean you should hold off on dinner until you’re in the car.
So, what happens if a cop in Alabama spots you eating a cheeseburger while driving down the highway? In most cases, nothing. There is no law that specifically states that you can’t eat while driving.
However, eating a cheeseburger, or burrito for that matter, could cause you to drive erratically or lose your focus. When that happens, you’re bound to run a stop sign, swerve into another lane, or even sideswipe another car. And in any of these cases, the police officer may decide your poorly timed eating contributed to your actions. With that, comes a ticket for distracted driving and any moving violation that came from it.
What’s the Difference between Primary and Secondary Enforcement?
Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means that the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.
Example: Cop sees you on your phone while driving and pulls you over.
Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means that the police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.
Example: You run into a stop sign because they saw you were eating a large burrito.
So no matter if you’re obeying every single traffic law ever written in Alabama and feel like you’re in total control of your vehicle, if a police officer sees you texting while driving, you can be pulled over and given a citation. And who wants that?
What’s the Fine for Distracted Driving in Alabama?
Well, the good news is Alabama has some of the lowest fines in the nation when it comes to distracted driving.
For drivers under 18, a cellphone or texting citation is considered a traffic violation. It comes with fines ranging from $150 to $350 and adds two points to their driving record.
For all others, texting while driving comes with a $25 fine on the first offense and $50 on the second. If you continue to rack up the offenses, they’ll move up to $75 for any further offenses.
NOTE: watch out when you cross the border into Mississippi, fines there are four times higher!
Alabama’s fines for distracted driving compared to surrounding states
Does a Distracted Driving Ticket in Alabama Increase Insurance Rates?
A citation for distracted driving in Alabama adds points to your driving record, which means your insurance company will know what you’ve been up to. So it’s a safe bet to assume a ticket for distracted driving will cause your rates to go up.
Not only that, but a citation could also cause you to lose your good driver discount if you’ve earned one, and make the hike in your premiums even more painful.
So What Can You Do?
Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it, let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting and the Candy Crush until you get home.