MONTGOMERY — A bill that would have prohibited the use of hand-held cell phones and other electronic devices while driving was defeated in the House by one vote Tuesday.
The final vote on the bill was 47-48 with four members abstaining.
House Bill 90 is sponsored by Rep. K. L. Brown, R-Jacksonville, who has championed the bill for multiple years, saying it is meant to help save lives.
The bill allowed for a person to contact emergency services if needed and exempted certain first responders and utility workers who may need to use their devices for work.
Brown proposed allowing drivers to use headphones or mount their devices on their dashboard and use voice commands to use their devices while driving.
An amendment was brought by Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, that would have also prohibited driving while drowsy, eating or drinking while driving, applying makeup or having an animal on your lap while driving.
The amendment eventually failed but Kiel said “in the end you cannot legislate safe driving.”
Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile, supports the idea of making driving safer but said he is concerned that the law would be used to racial profile drivers.
“In some communities, we have more issues than other communities when it comes to being pulled over by the police,” Bracy said. “If we can limit that interaction, we would be better off.”
The bill also would have required law enforcement agencies to maintain statistical information on all traffic stops made, including stops made of “minority groups,” and would report that data monthly to the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency.
Rep. AJ McCampbell, D-Demopolis, said he is concerned that the law could lead to people losing their driver’s license if found to be violating the law multiple times.
“To me we are creating criminals out of something that we shouldn’t be doing it to,” McCampbell said.