(VitalNews.org) – Drivers in Alabama who want to talk on their hand-held cell phones can continue doing so without fear of a ticket, for now. On April 4, the Alabama House of Representatives delayed voting on a bill that would make using a handheld cell phone while driving a car illegal.
The bill is not out of the running, but it is on hold. The state House voted 55-41 to delay the vote. Alabama law already bans texting and driving but does not ban the use of a handheld cell phone, presumably for spoken conversations. The bill seeks to broaden current law to prohibit the use of handheld devices for drivers altogether.
The decision to postpone the vote came after several hours of debate. Lawmakers shared stories of the consequences of distracted driving, but many questioned how the state would enforce an all-out ban on handheld phones for drivers.
Some suggested that such a law might be used to “target” black and other ethnic minority drivers.
Democratic Rep. John Rogers of Birmingham used a popular phrase to criticize the law. He said, “We call it DWB–Driving While Black.” Birmingham claims the law would simply give “them” (police) another reason to pull over black drivers. It is unclear whether Birmingham believes it is safe to drive with a handheld phone regardless of the driver’s race.
Others pointed out the fatal consequences of distracted drivers. Rep. Randall Shedd, a Republican, showed a photo of a college student that he said died after being struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk. “I beg you to support this bill today,” Shedd said.
The proposed law has several exceptions for phone use by drivers, including when the car is parked or when automatic steering wheel control is in use.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 31 states already bar drivers from using handheld phones.
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