It's been more than a month since texting while driving became illegal in Alabama. Officers are patrolling the streets for texting drivers, but next Wednesday even more law enforcement officers across Montgomery County will be cracking down.
It's all part of the, "It Can Wait" campaign, a pledge targeting young drivers to never text and drive again. Officers in the city of Montgomery and Montgomery County are part of the campaign and are specifically looking to ticket violators.
Lieutenant Rodney Barrett with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office says it's hard to distinguish between texting and talking, but he estimates one out of every four drivers are texting on their cell phones.
“People look at it, how can I get away with it,” Lt. Barrett said after pulling over one woman who appeared to be texting. “[They] make up excuses such as, I was taking a picture, it’s a pretty good excuse, but now this lady could go down and have a wreck five miles down the road and be injured or killed."
Lt. Barrett says officers typically look at cars starting to cross lanes. “We think they're drunk driving, but they're actually sitting up there doing this,” he said, while holding his hands above the steering wheel mimicking a texting driver.
But even though it’s illegal to text and drive, many drivers say it’s become a habit to pick up the phone on the roads.
“Sometimes I wonder am I actually going to have an accident or anything like that, and I have had times where I've almost wrecked, cause I was texting or what not, but I mean I still do it,” said Raven Symone-Howard of Montgomery.
"A lot of times you're so focused on your conversation and what you're doing,” Lt. Barrett says about texting drivers. “They're only watching this [cell phone] and trying to watch the road and trying to do that [text] they're not paying attention to the peripherals in other cars.”
CBS-8 rode along with Lt. Barrett for about one hour Thursday afternoon, and during that time he pulled over three drivers who appeared to be texting on their cell phones. Each driver had a different story or excuse behind why it looked as if they were texting. Some said they were taking pictures, others using a speaker phone or turning the phone off.
Each time, Lt. Barrett asked to see their phone, checked the texting log and most stories matched up. However, Lt. Barrett says during the time between him pulling over the vehicle and actually approaching the driver, text messages can be deleted.
“If I can’t disprove it right here myself, I certainly can’t disprove of it in a court of law,” he said after pulling over a driver. “So I gave her a warning, she agreed to not text and drive and I explained the law to her, and told her to have a nice day.”
Drivers caught texting while driving will have 2-points tacked onto their driving record along with a fine. First time offenders pay $25, $50 for second offense and $75 for the third offense or more.