Distracted-driving bill stalls in House

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Distractions by pets, cellphones and personal grooming would earn motorists at least a $25 fine and two points on their license based on legislation considered in the House on Thursday.

House Bill 198, known as Bryant’s Law, expands the definition of distracted driving to include reading, writing, personal grooming, and caring for pets in addition to using a cellphone or mobile device.

The bill failed to pass a House procedural vote on Thursday. It could reappear later in the session.

Existing law makes it illegal to write or send texts while driving. Bryant’s Law would bar drivers from any activity that causes inattention or distraction.

The bill would also allow law enforcement officers to treat a distracted driving violation as the primary or sole reason for issuing a citation. The fine for a first offense is $25; $50 for a second violation; and $75 for a third or subsequent violation. Each violation would add two points to the driver’s license.

Rep. Marcel Black, a former lawyer, raised concerns that the bill would lead to unintended consequences and lawsuits: “Anything can be distracting. What’s going to happen is that there will be a lawsuit on every car wreck in this state.”

Bryant’s Law is named for Bryant Lavender, an Alabama teen killed in a distracted-driving accident. Students at a Pickens County high school pitched the bill to legislators as part of a school project to educate their peers about the dangers of distracted driving.

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