Alabama House delays vote on distracted driving bill

The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday delayed a vote on legislation that would make it illegal to use a handheld cellphone while driving.

Representatives voted 55-41 to postpone a vote on the proposal to expand Alabama’s existing ban on texting and driving and prohibit all drivers from holding or using handheld cellphones. The postponement came after two hours of debate in which lawmakers shared stories of the dangers of distracted driving but also questioned the enforceability of the ban or if it would be used to target minority motorists.

“This bill was written trying to help people, but people don’t want to be helped,” Republican Rep. Randy Wood, the bill’s sponsor, said after the postponement.

Thirty-one states have similar laws that prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Republican Rep. Randall Shedd held up a photo of a 22-year-old college student he said was killed after being stuck by a vehicle in a crosswalk. “Ladies and gentlemen, I beg you to support this bill today,” Shedd said.

The legislation has several exceptions, including for when the vehicle is parked or when steering wheel controls are in use.

But several lawmakers in both parties questioned the enforceability of the ban. Some lawmakers also expressed concern that it could be used to target certain drivers.

“We call it DWB — Driving While Black….What you are doing is given them another reason to pull somebody over,” Democratic Rep. John Rogers of Birmingham said.

Lawmakers did advance separate legislation to make it illegal to smoke tobacco or vape in an vehicle when a child 14 or younger is in the vehicle. Violations would be punishable by a $100 fine. Representatives voted 84-15 to approve the bill, which now moves to the Alabama Senate.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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