The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 2, 2013

Athens 1, statewide 59 on tickets for driving while texting

From staff, wire reports
For The News Courier

— A new law aimed at reducing the number of Alabama drivers distracted by text messaging has resulted in only 59 tickets statewide and only one in Athens.

The law, which passed in May but took effect Aug. 1, made texting while driving illegal in the state.

In the five months since its inception, Alabama state troopers have issued 59 citations. Athens Police have issued one.

Catching a driver in the act of texting makes enforcing the law difficult.

Alabama State Patrol officials say they issued the 59 citations, and they’ve heard of only seven citations written by other law enforcement agencies in the state, according to The Montgomery Advertiser.

“Most of the texting that I see is in city traffic,” said state trooper spokesman Sgt. Steve Jarrett. “Troopers patrol the rural parts of the state, outside of cities that have police protection. If a trooper sees violations in the city, he takes action. But typically they patrol outside cities in other parts of the state.”

Athens Police Department issued one citation for texting while driving in November. The 21-year-old driver was sentenced to serve 19 days in jail or pay a fine and court costs of $290. Athens Police said it is difficult to determine whether a driver is texting, in part, because when they see a police cruiser they stop.

Under the law, conviction on the charge results in a find of $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second and $75 for subsequent offenses. Each conviction results in a two-point penalty for a licensed driver.

Drivers are allowed under the law to send text messages through voice-activated software, while parked on the shoulder of a road in neutral or park, or to summon emergency services.

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated distracted driving caused 15 deaths and 1,200 injuries per day, according to the Advertiser.

Republican Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, proposed the bill that was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley.