Jacksonville reports success with texting while driving ban

By Stephen McLamb- bio | email

JACKSONVILLE, AL (WAFF)- Jacksonville was the first city in Alabama to ban texting while driving, but has it been effective?

If you're looking at the effectiveness of getting the word out letting people know it's illegal, then it's been successful, but if you're looking at the number of citations issued, maybe not so much.

"Sometimes I'm guilty of it, but I try not to text. I got to get used to it. Hopefully, I won't get caught," said JSU student Charlie Langham.

Some drivers, like Langham, are still getting used to the city's new anti-texting law, but many drivers in Jacksonville feel it's a good idea because of dangers they've experienced first hand.

"He was driving his SUV, and he was texting, and he was coming over in my lane," recalled driver Wanda Ritter.

When Jacksonville passed the ordinance back in January a huge ad campaign was done--signs on the road, even mobile signs have been used in getting the word out.

"So I think the very fact people knew it was coming, they began to prepare for it, and it's worked very well for us," said Mayor Johnny Smith.

The ordinance, though, has been in effect four months and not a single citation has been issued.

"We have not given a citation in four months time which is a little bit surprising to me," Mayor Smith said.

That news is also surprising some residents.

"Well, they need to step on it, and just start paying attention," said Ritter.

The city's police chief believes the ad campaign has helped in changing the habits of drivers.

"That's good.  I'll quit doing it now.  And we've seen a marked decrease in people texting while driving," Chief Tommy Thompson.

So after four months, the town's mayor feels it's been a success.

"I really feel like just the fact that we have it on the books, it has made us safer," said Mayor Smith.

One Jacksonville officer said because texting often leads to other charges such as reckless driving, it just makes better sense to charge them with that, since it has a stronger impact, financially, in court and on their record.

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