It’s a fine law. Kudos to Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, for pushing through this legislation. From a distraction standpoint, fiddling with your cell phone while driving a car rates near the top of unsafe ideas for drivers.
In other words, keep your eyes on the road.
Yet, Alabama’s new law isn’t as much about law enforcement as it is awareness and re-education. State troopers haven’t gone through any advance training for how to detect drivers who may be sending a text or email, the Associated Press reports. It’s a matter of “applying common sense” while patrolling the roads, Alabama Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve Jarrett said.
Thus, this worthwhile law’s real value is in altering the attitude of Alabama drivers. Consider it the first stage of a generational change of those who use the state’s roads.
Oh, don’t think human nature can be totally subverted. Drivers have been distracted since automakers first started putting bells and whistles in their vehicles. Today, the list of distractions can be anything from the noisy kids in the back to the CD you’re trying to fish out from underneath the front seat. Who hasn’t talked on their cell phone while behind the wheel? How many drivers haven’t munched on a drive-through burger?
We’re all guilty of doing things that dangerously take our attention from the road. And it’s foolish to think Alabama’s new law will cure that.
However, let’s hope McClendon’s law becomes the fuel behind a widespread alteration of what Alabamians think is OK when they’re behind the wheel. Drinking and driving provides the perfect example. It is deadly. Statistics prove it. Science proves it. No one disputes it.
Likewise, we envision a day soon when drivers are fully conditioned to shun the urge to email or text. That’s particularly the case with teenagers, who today seem impossibly glued to their smartphones and, given their inherent immaturity, are ripe for testing out Alabama’s new law. If anything, the law gives parents of teenaged drivers more reasons to preach a strong anti-texting message.
The choices are simple: When you’re driving, pay attention. If you have to send a text, pull over in a safe place. Now the law backs that up.