Georgia's driving laws don't cover cell use -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Georgia's driving laws don't cover cell use

March 18, 2008

Albany-  Georgia's driving laws are outdated. Technology, specifically cell phones, text messaging, even i-Pods create new challenges for safe driving.

In a recent crash in Sumter County, a woman was killed while texting, and that now has a local lawmaker questioning that law and whether it needs to be more detailed.

The consequences of distracted driving can be deadly. Using phone records and the 911 call in a crash two weeks ago the Georgia State Patrol determined 22 year old Shana Baker was sending a text message when she crossed the center line on Highway 19 and hit another car head on. She was killed. Drivers know it's dangerous, but won't stop.

"You don't realize when you're driving that this could be dangerous because you're taking your eyes off the wheel so, or the road it's kind of crazy," said Ashley Winfield.

Despite the danger, drivers find the urge to text overwhelming.

"I guess because you really want to answer the question real fast, like if someone asks you a question and you text message them you're like well, I mean I'm just driving," said Keisha Webb.

It only takes a second to get distracted.

"If you're looking at your phone and if you're talking on your phone then you're certainly not aware of everyone else around you," said Michelle DeMott, Albany Safe Communities Coordinator.

In 2006, lawmakers drafted legislation that would be more detailed about the use of cell phones, but it never made it out of committee.

"Well certainly it would be time to be more detailed to what proper usage of a phone is in 1990 when this last law passed pertaining to the use of phones it did not, we didn't have text messaging features," said State Senator Michael Meyer von Bremen.

The Department of Public Safety is just beginning to require law enforcement officers to note on their reports whether a cell phone or text messaging was in use during a crash. They say that will give them a better idea just how many crashes this type of distraction is causing.

During Safe Community seat belt checks they're also now keeping track on the amount of drivers talking on the phone while driving. Their record show between 50 and 70 percent of drivers are on the phone while driving.



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