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Huntsville drivers get grace period before upgraded hands-free law kicks in

HUNTSVILLE – The Huntsville Police Department is holding a six-month driver’s education campaign to prepare motorists for new restrictions on using hand-held devices while driving.

HPD, Huntsville Fire & Rescue and the City Council have announced a grace period before tickets start being issued for violating the new hands-free restrictions.

The program comes as the city and HPD kick off a six-month campaign on a new hands-free ordinance that will prohibit drivers from physically handling any wireless telecommunication device, such as a phone or tablet, while operating a vehicle inside the city limits.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life, especially behind the wheel,” said City Council President David Little, who sponsored the ordinance. “While breaking old habits can be hard, the potential impact of not doing so on those around us is too great to ignore.

“Starting now, I ask all Huntsville citizens to commit to being fully present on the road, not only to ensure your own safety but the safety of others as well.”

Get ready

Huntsville passed the ordinance in October that treats a handheld wireless telecommunication device violation as a primary offense. According to the city, educating the public without issuing citations is a top priority for the first half of 2024.

Through June 30, the education campaign will include a online and social media outreach, print materials, signs and billboards, videos, blogs, and in-person events.

Motorists who violate the ordinance after the campaign ends may be issued a citation and required to pay the following fines within a 24-month period:

  • $50 for a first conviction;
  • $100 for a second conviction; and
  • $150 for a third conviction and/or community service.

Certain individuals will be exempt from the ordinance, such as emergency services professionals, those dialing or texting 911 to report an emergency or seek help, individuals using wireless telecommunication devices while legally parked, and physicians responding to an emergency medical situation.

“Distracted driving has become an alarming issue, contributing to countless accidents and tragedies in Huntsville and across our state and country,” Police Chief Kirk Giles said. “By putting an end to texting, phone calls and other distractions while driving, we all play a part in creating a community where everyone can travel with confidence and peace of mind.”

Putting away hand-held devices, primarily cell phones, is something that stretches the public to obey.

“Many of us are guilty of occasionally using our devices while driving, but the reality is, one second of inattention can have devastating consequences,” Huntsville Fire & Rescue Chief Mac McFarlen said. “In this new year, let’s all pledge to stay focused and leave distractions behind to make Huntsville a safer city for all.”

The city offers these tips as Huntsville’s wades into new driving territory:

  • Put the phone away – Stow your phone or other wireless device in a designated place before starting your vehicle to resist the temptation to use it while driving.
  • Plan ahead – Map out your route, set up any necessary navigation and attend to personal matters before getting on the road to minimize distractions.
  • Take breaks – Long drives can be tiring, leading to less focus on the road. Commit to taking regular breaks when needed to stay alert and refreshed.
  • Lead by example – Encourage your loved ones to join you in your resolution to end distracted driving. Doing so helps foster a culture of responsible driving within and beyond your circle of influence.

To learn more about the new hands-free law, visit HuntsvilleAL.gov/HandsFree. The public can also keep up with HPD on Facebook and X to follow the campaign.

 

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