Alabaster mom on mission to stiffen Alabama's texting and driving law
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Despite a 2012 ban on texting and driving, distracted driving accidents continue to pile up. Now a mother in Alabaster whose daughter was killed recently in a distracted driving accident is taking her fight to Montgomery to try and change laws.
"These kids are getting phones at 8, 9, 10 years old before they're even close to driving. And in another three or five years, they aren't going to put the phone down," Michelle Lunsford said.
Lunsford is speaking to as many people who will listen to her about the dangers of distracted driving. It's a message that hits her like a rock.
Her 17-year-old daughter Camyrn Callaway was killed in an accident in February. Michelle says her daughter got distracted behind the wheel after heading home on I-65 south near exit 242 when her car collided with an tractor trailer.
The Thompson High School senior's life ended a month before her 18th birthday.
Since then, Michelle has been speaking out telling parents about the real consequences of texting and driving.
"For me, its been very important in the healing process for me. Its make a big impact on me just by what I hear from other people," Lunsford said.
She's now taking her daughter's story to the state capitol in hopes of changing Alabama's texting and driving laws.
"We need stronger enforcement of the laws and stronger laws. The laws are very weak in Alabama," Lunsford said.
Right now, if you get caught texting and driving in Alabama its $25 for the first offense then goes to $50 and $75 for the third offense. You'll also get two points against your driver's license. Lunsford believes the current law is a slap on the wrist.
"I believe they need to increase the fines for it to make it a deterrent to texting and driving that you will think twice about it," she said.
We took Lunsford's concerns to State Senator Jim McClendon of Springville .He originally pushed Alabama's texting and driving bill into law in 2012, six years after first trying.
"The penalties got watered down in the process in order to get the bill passed and I'm in agreement its time to stiffen those penalties to bring them up to par with other similar offenses," McClendon said.
The University of Alabama's Center for Advanced Public Safety tracks how many crashes were caused by distracted driving.
In 2009, there were 469 accidents. By 2016, that number jumped to over 1,500. State statistics keepers warn these numbers aren't telling us how big the problem really is and that's why Lunsford and Senator McClendon says something needs to be done to get a handle on the growing problem.
"I'd be more than willing to come forward with a bill particularly if I could get some support from out of these parents and folks in the public who wants to see these laws," McClendon said.
"Its time to really be pushing forward with the laws. Like I said it starts at the home. Its only something written on paper if mom, dad. If you are not enforcing it. We have laws against speeding but we do it. It has to come from the home first," Lunsford said.
Lunsford says she's looking forward to meeting with Senator McClendon. In the coming weeks, she's got a meeting with ALDOT and with Drive Safe Alabama about trying to strengthen texting and driving laws.
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