After 3 Years, No-Texting Law Hard to Enforce

9:03 PM, Jul 30, 2013   |    comments
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(WMAZ) -- On July 1, 2010, Georgia banned texting while driving.

"To save lives," says former Governor Sonny Perdue. "Obviously we know that distractions such as texting and driving are very dangerous, very distracting, and they create a lot of deaths on the highway. So, that was the motive, pure and simple, was to save lives."

After three years, has the law changed drivers' habits?

"It has, not enough, but it has," says Perdue, who signed the law. "It has definitely caught my attention, but just like speeding, I can't say that I've been within the law entirely the whole time."

State Representative Allen Peake of Macon, who wrote the law, admits he will also catch himself sometimes sending a text while on the road, but he believes the law has made a big impact throughout the state.

"If it changes behavior in a positive way, it's got to save a life somewhere along the line, and for that, it's worth it," says Peake.

A year after the law passed, 13WMAZ asked central Georgia law enforcement agencies how they were enforcing the law. Many of them, including Milledgeville, Forsyth, and Centerville police departments had not written any citations. Macon police had the most that year with 16.

Two years later, those numbers have not changed much. The Jones County Sheriff's Office wrote three distracted-driving tickets within the first year, and in year three, they wrote two. Baldwin County Sheriff's Office did jump from two citations to seven this year.

Many agencies say the numbers are not low because people have stopped texting while driving, but because the law is difficult to enforce.

"It is perfectly legal to be making a call on your cell phone; the law is if you're texting and driving. If you're stopped by a law enforcement officer, what do you think they're going to say? 'I was making a phone call,' and there's no way to prove that," says Harris Blackwood, Director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

Blackwood says the state is brainstorming new ways to help officers enforce the law, and they now have $1.6 million to help them do it.

Georgia is one of seven states to receive the grant money, which is part of President Barack Obama's MAP-21 transportation bill. That stands for 'Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.'

Blackwood says some of the money will go toward education, and the rest toward developing new enforcement tools.

The state will receive the grant money in October.

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