Alabama Legislature

Lawmaker Passionate About Banning Cell Phones While Driving Strikes Bill on House Floor

The Legislature is debating a bill to make it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving. (Source: Pexels)

A bill to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones and other devices while driving was supposed to get a vote in the Alabama House on Thursday, but in an unusual move, the sponsor effectively killed his legislation.

Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, said on the House floor that a new version of the bill is sponsored by Rep. K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville.

“He’s going to do a fantastic job and that legislation is going to save lives,” Farley said.

Later, he said he won’t comment on why he removed his name from the legislation until after it becomes law.

Brown also wouldn’t comment on the change of sponsorship.

Brown’s bill, House Bill 404, is still named Cici’s Law, after a constituent in Farley’s district who was killed in a distracted driving wreck. Brown said it would accomplish the same thing, the only change is that Farley would no longer be listed as the sponsor.

Brown’s bill passed out of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, was the only person to speak on the floor about Farley’s decision and commended him for giving up the sponsorship.

“As long as lives are being saved then that’s good,” Jackson said. “That’s what’s happened to a lot of us, we get in a selfish mode of putting our names on stuff and when that happens, we lose our identity for coming here as servants to the people.”

Later, Jackson said the sponsor switch was “politics” but wouldn’t comment further.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told Alabama Daily News he was surprised by Farley’s move and is supportive of the bill.

State law already prohibits the act of texting while driving, but bill sponsors say an outright ban on holding electronic communication devices will be more enforceable for police. Also, increased penalties for violations will help drivers think twice before texting or tweeting, lawmakers say.

The bill doubles the fines for breaking the law. First-time violators would pay $50 and receive two points on their license, which could cause their insurance costs to rise. Second time violators would be fined $100 plus another two points, and third time violators would pay a $150 and get three points.

Farley previously told Alabama Daily News that he was motivated to create this bill when he heard about a local teenager, Camryn “Cici” Callaway, being killed in a distracted driving accident in February 2018.

The bill would allow drivers to use Bluetooth and other hands-free connections for phone calls and interact with vehicle devices such as back-up cameras.

Sixteen other states have banned the use of hand-held cellphones in cars, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

According to Alabama’s Law Enforcement Agency, there were 8,296 car crashes caused by distracted driving between 2015 and 2017. Forty-three of those crashes were fatal.