Handheld cell phone ban proposed for drivers in Georgia

2:28 PM, Jan 27, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Have you ever seen another driver, who is clearly talking on the phone, cut you off or swerve or even cause an accident, obviously distracted by that phone?

Maybe you've done that yourself.

Some Georgia lawmakers are trying again this year to ban drivers from using hand-held phones.

"You would not be allowed to hold your cell phone and drive," said Rep. Rahn Mayo, (D) Decatur, who is the chief sponsor of the legislation.

Rep. Mayo said that while his proposed law is aimed at stopping people from using hand-held cell phones while they're driving in Georgia, it would allow drivers to use hands-free phone devices.

"It's going to save lives," Mayo said.

Rep. Mayo has tried for the past two years to gather enough votes in the House to move the bill over to the Senate. He's hoping his latest version of the bill, which he just introduced, will make it through the legislature and onto the Governor's desk this year.

A lot of drivers are skeptical about the need for it, including Jeff Keesee of Atlanta.

"I think it's a bit of overkill," Keesee said. "I don't know how it would be enforced. There are a lot of things that people do to be distracted in their car. Eating, doing makeup, all kinds of things. So why pick this one, little activity?"

Cell phone use by drivers is already restricted under current Georgia laws which went into effect in July, 2010, and police are becoming more proficient at enforcing them.

One law bans all cell phone use by drivers who are 17 years old, and younger. They are not allowed to use cell phones at all, for talking or texting.

Statistics were not readily available Friday night about the numbers of tickets police across Georgia have issued to teen drivers under that law since July, 2010.

But according to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, as of January 24, 2013, 60 of the ticketed teen drivers have been "convicted" in Georgia of using cell phones. That means they either did not contest the tickets, or they were found guilty, and the records of those 60 convictions were sent to DDS to be placed on the teens' driving records.

Georgia law also bans adult drivers from texting on their cell phones.

Again, the numbers of tickets issued under that law since July, 2010, were not available Friday night. But as of January 24, 2013, 1,916 of the ticketed drivers have actually been convicted of texting and driving, according to DDS.

Rep. Mayo said that under his proposal to ban hand-held cell phone use by drivers, police would not be able to stop 100 percent of the violators.  But he said the law would act as a deterrent, and more and more drivers would reduce or stop their use of hand-held phones just because they're afraid they'll get a ticket that would go on their driving records.

"It's certainly going to change the behavior of drivers, and create a deterrent so that they're less likely, much less likely, to use that cell phone in the car.... We're going to create safer roads and highways in Georgia, and we just want to reduce the numbers of distracted drivers on our roads and highways. And I believe that this is going to go a long way in saving lives and preventing, and reducing, the number of traffic-related deaths and injuries because of distracted drivers talking on their cell phones."

Rep. Mayo is in the process of researching accident records to find out how many drivers have caused accidents in Georgia because they were distracted by using hand-held phones.

His bill has been assigned to the House Motor Vehicles Committee.

Mayo is hoping his bill will get a hearing in the committee in the next two or three weeks.

Link:  Read the two-page bill, HB 31:  http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/128409.pdf




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