As per Alabama law Ala. Code § 32-5A-350, drivers are not permitted to text with a wireless telecommunication device while driving. It is also against state law for drivers under the age of 18 to use a mobile phone while driving, even if it is a hands-free communication device. However, as of this writing, it is still legal for drivers over the age of 18 to use a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle, provided they are not texting, despite a proposed bill that would have made this activity illegal (in 2019, the bill passed the House but not the Senate).
Alabama laws permit sending and receiving texts while at a red light. They also allow the use of headphones and headsets.
Clarifying Terms of the State’s Laws
Drivers in Alabama must understand how this statute defines important terms.
Wireless Telecommunication Device
When the law refers to “wireless telecommunication devices,” it refers to the following:
- Handheld cell phones
- Personal digital assistants
- Text-messaging devices
- Other mobile communication devices that require manual input
- The term excludes any voice-operated texting devices.
Ala. Code § 32-5A-350 specifically bans writing, sending, or reading text-based communications while driving. In the scope of the law, “texting” includes email, instant messages, and text messages.
The term excludes the act of entering, selecting, or reading a name or phone number into the communication device so you can place a call.
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Are There Exceptions to Alabama’s Distracted Driving Laws?
Alabama’s distracted driving laws do provide a few exceptions. Obviously, the state permits a driver to use wireless devices to contact police or other emergency services. A driver also can pull onto the shoulder of a road, park, and use their cell phones. Finally, it is not illegal to use a GPS, like Waze or Google Maps, if preprogrammed with coordinates for a final destination.
What Happens if Alabama Police Catch a Person Driving While Distracted?
Generally, a violation of state law can be enforced in one of two ways in Alabama:
If police see you texting while driving, they can pull you over and issue a citation for violating Alabama’s distracted driving laws.
Suppose a law enforcement officer spots what appears to be a young teenager talking on their cell phone while driving. In that case, police will cite this individual for violation of state distracted driving laws only if the driver breaks another law – perhaps they are speeding through a school zone—while talking on their cell phone.
A person driving distracted in the Heart of Dixie should be prepared for primary enforcement of Alabama’s distracted driving laws – meaning that police can issue you a citation solely for violating these laws.
What Fines Can Distracted Drivers Receive in Alabama?
Alabama’s fines for distracted driving are among the lowest in the country. In addition, drivers under the age of 18 pay more for violations than older drivers.
A teen under the age of 18 will pay fines between $150 and $350 for using a cell phone or texting while driving. The violation will also cost them two points on their driving record.
Drivers who are more than 18 years old simply pay a $25 fine for their first texting while driving offense and for a second offense, the fine doubles. Any future violations – third and beyond – will result in a $75 fine.
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Does a Distracted Driving Violation Affect Insurance Rates?
If you are wondering whether your insurance company will know about your distracted driving violation in Alabama – they will. Keep in mind that this citation adds a point to your driving record. Most likely, your insurance rates will correspondingly increase.
If you have enjoyed a good driver discount with your auto insurance company, you may also be saying goodbye to that privilege.
How does Distracted Driving Affect Liability for a Crash?
Because Alabama follows a fault-based compensation system, if a person causes a car crash because they were driving while distracted, the driver could be liable for damages – like medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering – for anyone who suffers injury in the collision.
Under AL Code § 6-2-38, the injured party has two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver. However, certain exceptions could shorten this deadline. For example, if someone dies from a distracted-driving collision, their family has two years from the date of the accident in which to file a wrongful death suit, according to AL Code § 6-5-410.
It Can Be Difficult to Demonstrate Liability in a Distracted Driving Accident
To demonstrate that the distracted driver is liable, an accident lawyer would need to obtain proof that they were violating the law. Without eyes inside the vehicle, it can be difficult to obtain this kind of evidence.
However, an attorney can gather hard-to-find evidence, such as:
- Cell phone records. The liable party’s cell phone records may contain timestamps indicating they were texting while driving at the time of the collision.
- Black box data. Some vehicles contain a device that records input after a crash, including the speed the car was going at the time of the collision and when the driver hit the brakes. This information may be helpful in demonstrating their delayed reaction time due to their distracted driving.
- Surveillance footage. One of the best ways to show that a driver was distracted when they caused the collision is with video; however, if viable footage can be found, it must be obtained through the proper channels and used in accordance with the law.
Obtaining strong evidence can be difficult on your own. A car accident lawyer can help.
Get Help from a Distracted Driving Accident Attorney By Contacting Our Office Today
If you or a loved one were injured in a distracted driving accident, the Morris Bart law firm will represent you in a fight for compensation. We will use our knowledge of Alabama’s distracted driving laws and their exceptions to demonstrate liability in your case.
Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Questions?Call (800) 537-8185
to find a Morris Bart office near you.