Penalties for cell phone use while driving - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Penalties for cell phone use while driving

March 28, 2006

Albany--More than 110 million Americans use cell phones and more than half of us keep them with us while we drive.

While it's not illegal in Georgia to talk on your cell phone while you drive doing so can get you in trouble with the law.

Only New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia ban the use of cell phones while driving. But south Georgia law enforcers say they keep a close eye on drivers who choose to talk behind the wheel.

Most of us are guilty of it, talking on our cell phones while driving. "I've caught myself sometimes not paying attention. I ran a stop sign before," says driver, Justin Waldie.

Waldie uses his cell phone often and knows it can be distracting. "It causes a lot of wrecks," he says.

A wreck two years ago killed 17-year-old Mya Smart of Valdosta. Smart's car crossed the median and hit an SUV head on. Police say the teen was likely distracted by her cell phone.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, at any given time during the day, close to one million people talk on their cell phones while driving.

"I've seen wrecks with people using their cell phones and not paying attention," says driver, Drew Cherry.

That's why he tries to limit his cell phone use while on the road. "I need to talk to my parents and let them know that I'm coming home, in that case, I would use my cell phone," he says.

"If you're talking on a cell phone or you're trying to monitor a radio, you're not paying attention to what's going on around you," says Albany Police Lt. Kenn Singleton. He says talking while driving can cost you.

"It is a secondary law, a violation," says Singleton.

And charges could follow, if you're involved in wreckless driving while on the phone.

"The driver has due care. In other words, if a person driving the vehicle and has an accident this is going to be a secondary violation," he says.

If you're going to use your phone, police say you should pull over first. As for Justin and Drew, both plan to do less talking.

"I do feel guilty in the way I use my cell phone," says Cherry.

And focus more on driving.

Cell phones aren't the only thing that can get you in trouble with the law, but anything that might distract you while driving, including the radio.

Failure to practice due care is a traffic misdemeanor that could carry up to a year in jail and a one thousand dollar fine.

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