Legislature may put tough restrictions on young drivers - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Legislature may put tough restrictions on young drivers

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

November 24, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Listen up teen drivers, Georgia lawmakers may make it illegal for you to talk on your cell phone while driving. They'll consider a bill that would ban cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18.

Right now, Georgia doesn't have much to go on when it comes to crashes caused by distracted drivers on the phone. This proposal would also require law enforcers to note on their report whether a cell phone was in use during a crash.

The Community Traffic Safety Coalition calls it instant aging. A 20 year old who's talking or texting behind the wheel can have the reaction time of a 70 year old driver when distracted. Despite the warnings many teen do it daily.

"Oh, yeah probably every day," says 19 year old motorist Chip Aplin.

 "Nothing's ever happened so, I know my phone so well I don't have to look at it to text," says 19 year old motorist Anna Knuckles.

Now Georgia's legislature is considering forcing teens to put down the phone, prohibiting anyone under 18 from using a cell phone while driving. Young adults don't necessarily disagree with lawmakers.

"I just started driving so I don't do that yet, I hope I don't, because I don't think it's safe,"  said 20 year old motorist Shiala Brooks.

"I think it's dangerous and I think it should be banned for everyone not just everyone under 18," says 19 year old motorist Kristen Schroder.

Newly proposed legislation would also add stiffer penalties for adults involved in crashes that resulted from a cell phone. You could be charged with driving while distracted a misdemeanor, have a point added against your license, or be fined.

"We all like to think we can multi-task but with inexperienced drivers they need to be not distracted they need to focus on the road," says Michele DeMott, Safe Communities Coordinator.

Unfortunately the state doesn't have a lot of information because law enforcement isn't required to report it, but the new legislation would change that too and make it reportable. Some teen say tougher laws won't matter.

"They'll probably just do it and then when they see a police officer passing them they'll put it down then pick it back up," said Aplin.

Safety experts say the proposal can't hurt, and hope lawmakers take action to keep Georgia's roads safe.

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