There is no question that distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents around the country. It’s threatening to overtake intoxication as the leading cause of all accidents. Alabama is no exception to this epidemic. If you have been harmed by distracted driving, there are some things you need to know.
How Frequent Are Distracted Driving Accidents?
The most recent complete data is from 2016. More than 3,000 people were killed, and more than 400,000 individuals were injured as a result of distracted driving. In Alabama, car accidents account for a large number of annual deaths (21.3 per 100,000). This is enough to rank as second worst in the country. Estimates show that more than 10 percent of traffic accidents are the result of distracted driving.
What Counts as Distracted Driving?
In Alabama, distracted driving can include texting, emails, or virtually any usage of a phone. Other forms of distracted driver include talking to passengers, eating or drinking, messing with a stereo or entertainment system, or using a GPS. These are just the most common causes of distraction. Any action that can be construed as distracting to a driver can cause an accident and make the driver liable.
What Are Alabama’s Distracted Driving Laws?
As of the time of this writing, Alabama has some of the least strict laws in the country. Texting on the phone is always prohibited but talking on the phone is not. For drivers under the age of 18, all interaction with a phone is a violation.
If no accident occurs, texting violations incur a simple fine. The cost is $25 for the first infraction, and it rises by $25 for each subsequent violation, up to a maximum fine or $75. If an accident does occur, reckless driving convictions can add heftily to those penalties. It’s worth noting that the state allows courts to subpoena phone records in order to verify that texting occurred during a collision. In some cases, the entire phone can be subpoenaed and every messaging app can be scoured.
Even with these laws, Alabama legislators are pushing for change. There is a strong movement trying to make all phone usage hands free by the end of 2019. Proposed legislation could also increase penalties for texting while driving and other common distractions.
There is no question that distracted driving is a serious problem with equally serious consequences. Knowing the basics is an important step towards protecting yourself on the road and in court.