Put the phone down: New bill makes it punishable to have phone in hand while driving

TROY, Ala. (TROJANVISION) — Recently, Gov. Kay Ivey signed new distracted driving legislation into law, which makes it easier for officers to crack down on distracted driving.

Thanks to Senate Bill 301, using a phone for anything other than answering a call or using it as a GPS is a finable offense. SB301 expands a pre-existing law that makes it illegal to text and drive and for anyone under 18 years old to use the phone while driving.

“Texting and driving was prohibited in the state of Alabama,” said Troy University Police Department (TUPD) Officer Rachel Farmer. “This is aiming to exclude having the phone in your hand for any other purpose. A lot of the arguments with the texting was I wasn’t texting I was entering a phone number. I wasn’t texting I was picking up a phone call.”

Having a phone in your hands while driving is now a finable offense under a new Alabama law

The new bill also deems it illegal to physically hold a phone, write, send, or read text messages, watch or record a video while driving, and reach for any electronic device that forces the driver to lift up from their seat.

“After June of 2024 fines will be added,” Farmer explained. “It’s a $50 fine to start with. Then it goes on to 100, 150 [dollars] and points will also be taken off your driver’s license.”

There are some important caveats to the bill. For example, drivers can still use Bluetooth and use a single swipe to answer a phone call.

“No hands-on devices at all,” Farmer told TrojanVision.

Being caught using your phone while driving is a secondary violation, which means police can’t stop someone for being on the phone. However, they can stop someone for a traffic violation and charge the driver for using a phone.

“This, of course, excludes texting because texting is a primary offense,” Farmer said. “I don’t have to have another reason if I see you continuously on the phone.”

With the new law already in effect, law enforcement agencies, including TUPD, can enforce it.

“We want our students and drivers to be the safest that they can,” Farmer said.

To read SB301 in its entirety, click here.