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Texting ban takes effect

A ban against texting while driving becomes active today.

In May, Gov. Robert Bentley signed the measure into law. The new law prohibits using a wireless device to write, send, or read a text message, instant message or e-mail while operating a motor vehicle.

The fine for violating the law is $25 for a first-time offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third or subsequent offense. Also, for each offense, a two-point violation would be placed on the offender’s driving record.

The new law makes texting while driving a primary offense, which means police officers can stop drivers if they suspect them of texting while driving. Drivers can send text messages while parked on the shoulder of a highway, road or street.

“Drivers need to focus on driving, not sending a text,” Bentley said at the bill’s signing. “There is nothing so urgent that it is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by sending a text message while you are driving down the road.”

According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving creates a crash risk that is 23 times greater than when a driver is not distracted. Also, sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. For a driver going 55 miles-per-hour, that’s the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, “distracted by use of an electronic communications device” was a contributing factor in 1,256 accidents in 2010. Those accidents resulted in five deaths statewide.

Rep. Jim McClendon, who sponsored the legislation, said the new law will make the state’s highways safer.

“After six years of attempting to get this bill through, persistence has finally paid off,” McClendon said.