As an Alabama drunk driving defense lawyer, I see how strict our state's DUI pratrols and drunken driving enforcement can be. In Birmingham, Mobile, Dothan or any number of cities and towns across the state, driving while intoxicated will get you a stiff fine and sometimes even jail time. Being caught for operating a motor vehicle while under impaired due to consuming alcohol, such as beer, wine or hard liquor, means you may spend a night at a local police department until someone can take you home.
Understanding how harsh the penalties are for a DUI conviction, it may be just a little bit surprising that the rest of Alabama's traffic laws only garnered the state a seven out of 15 score in a recent study by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety AHAS), a group of nationwide organizations focus on traffic safety across the U.S.
According to the study, Alabama scored behind 41 other states when it comes to having laws on the books that promote safe driving. The state got low grades and criticism from this coalition of safety experts for failing to ban text messaging behind the wheel and for lacking tougher restrictions on teenage drivers.
Based on news reports, the AHAS ranked Alabama in the last 20 percent of all states. The highest score, by the way, went to New Jersey with a 13.5. South Dakota fared worst with 3 points.
Alabama did score high (and received a full point) for its primary seatbelt law, which allows police to pull over a driver for not wearing a safety belt, as well as the legal requirement that motorcyclists wear helmets; our state's ban on open alcoholic beverage containers in vehicles; the law on impaired drivers injuring children; and the requirement of six months' supervision for newly licensed teenage drivers.
However, the group called for Alabama to raise the age at which a learner's permit is issued to 16 years of age from the current 15 years. It also suggested that the state restrict cell-phone use by teenage drivers, raise the age to 18 for full driving privileges, and require more supervised time behind the wheel before teens earn a license.
The group gave the state partial credit for a number of other laws including the legal requirement for mandatory blood-alcohol testing, which allows a police officer to take a motorist's driver's license away on the spot if he or she refuses to take a blood alcohol test. This rule also provides for an automatic 90-day license (or longer) depending on the circumstances.
Alabama lags in comparison of highway safety laws, AL.com, January 12, 2010