Alabama Hands-Free Law Reduces Distracted Driving 2.4%


Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) on July 27 announced the first analysis of the hands-free law enacted in Alabama on June 16. The new data shows a 2.4% reduction in distracted driving one month after Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill prohibiting drivers from handling their phones while driving. 

From May 16 through June 15, Alabama drivers spent an average of 2 minutes and 5 seconds driving distracted. In the month since the law passed, time spent distracted decreased by 3 seconds.

The gains from the new law already appear to be fading, however. The first week after the law went into effect saw the largest reduction in distracted driving, dropping by four seconds compared to the prior month. The last full week of CMT’s analysis, from July 14 through July 20, shows distraction in Alabama was 1 second higher than before the law went into effect.

“Hands-free laws are the foundation for a host of strategic initiatives that can improve roadway safety by reducing smartphone distraction,” said Ryan McMahon, SVP of strategy for CMT. “While a critical milestone, Alabama’s new law does not have the same restrictions as laws passed in other states this year, which have reduced distracted driving by five times as much. Alabama’s biggest challenge now is to build on the foundation of the new law to strengthen safety for all drivers in Alabama.”

Ohio passed hands-free legislation in early April. Since then, it’s seen a sustained 10% reduction in distracted driving. One of the key differences between the two states is that Ohio’s law is a primary offense, meaning police officers can stop drivers just for handling their phones. Alabama’s law is a secondary offense, where police officers can only ticket drivers for using their phones if they’ve also committed a primary offense, like speeding.

Still, the 2.4% drop in distracted driving in Alabama for one month made drivers and roadway users in the state safer. CMT’s data shows the crash rate falls by 1.4% with every 10% reduction in distracted driving. In the month of reduced distraction, CMT estimates Alabama was able to prevent 70 car crashes and $1.6 million in economic damages.

CMT defines phone motion distraction as when the phone is rotating with the screen on while the vehicle is moving. The data comes from more than 1 million trips in Alabama from May 16 through July 24.

Source: Cambridge Mobile Telematics

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