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Get ready: New hands-free driving law to take effect Jan. 1 in Huntsville

Published on December 14, 2023

A man looks at his phone while driving. He has a surprised look on his face.

Heads up, Huntsville drivers. Starting Jan. 1, 2024, the City’s new hands-free ordinance will prohibit motorists from holding any wireless telecommunications device while operating a vehicle.

The ordinance, sponsored by Huntsville City Council President David Little with assistance from the Huntsville Police Department (HPD), was voted into law by City Council on Oct. 12, 2023. The goal of the legislation is to enable law enforcement to treat a handheld wireless communication device violation as a primary instead of a secondary offense.

Under the City’s existing no-text ordinance, officers need another reason, such as failing to signal or wear a seatbelt, to stop a driver and issue a citation for distracted driving. Not only will the new ordinance strengthen Huntsville’s existing texting-while-driving law, but it will also be easier for HPD to enforce.

 ‘A no-brainer’ for Huntsville

HPD Chief Kirk Giles, who began working on the ordinance with Council President Little in early 2023, fully supports the new law. By reducing the number of distracted driving-related wrecks in Huntsville, Giles said the ordinance will help to protect the health, safety and welfare of the Huntsville community.

Making Huntsville safer by decreasing the number of people using wireless telecommunication devices while driving is a no-brainer. When a motorist is focused on something else, such as a phone or GPS, instead of driving, they not only put themselves at risk of serious injury or death, but everyone else on the road as well.” – Huntsville Police Chief Kirk Giles.


A wireless telecommunications device includes but is not limited to smartphones, cell phones, electronic readers or tablets, laptops or netbooks, and GPS devices.

Under the new law, it is illegal to do any of the following while operating a motor vehicle:

  • Use a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, read or otherwise engage in any text-based communication;
  • Watch, record or capture photo or video;
  • Engage in voice-based communication while holding a wireless telecommunications device; or
  • Physically hold or otherwise support a wireless telecommunications device with any part of their body.

Close to home

Little, who was critically injured when a distracted driver struck his vehicle in December 2008, is living proof that using wireless devices behind the wheel can have unintended and sometimes deadly consequences.

The distracted driving accident occurred when Little, his wife, Mimi, and their three children were traveling home from a restaurant in Morgan County just days before Christmas. Suddenly, a teen driver who was texting a family member rear-ended the car in front of him and crossed into the eastbound lane, hitting Little’s vehicle.

His wife and children escaped the wreck with little to no injuries; however, Little wasn’t so fortunate. After being cut from his family’s vehicle, Little spent the next few months healing from a broken hip, collarbone, ribs, nose and a punctured lung.

“I was blessed to survive the accident and recover from my injuries, but others haven’t been so lucky,” he said. “Since that life-changing event 15 years ago, I’ve spent nearly every day advocating for laws that prevent distracted driving incidents in my community and am thrilled to see Huntsville take this important step toward safety.”

What to know

In the first six months of 2024, the City will join HPD, Huntsville Fire & Rescue, HEMSI and Huntsville Hospital to educate the community about the ordinance without issuing citations. First responders will hand out prepared materials with information on the law to drivers during that time.

When the six-month grace period is over, drivers who violate the hands-free law may receive a citation issued by a Huntsville Police officer. The following fines will apply during a 24-month period:

  • $50 for a first conviction;
  • $100 for a second conviction; and
  • $150 for a third conviction and/or community service.

Certain individuals are exempt from the ordinance, including emergency services professionals, those dialing or texting 911 to report an emergency or seek help, individuals who are using wireless telecommunication devices while legally parked, physicians responding to an emergency medical situation and more.

To learn more about the law, visit HuntsvilleAL.gov/HandsFree. The public can also keep up with HPD on Facebook and X to follow the campaign.

Watch the Hands-Free News Conference

Visit the Hands-Free Ordinance page for more information and a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).