City commissioners ponder cell phone law - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City commissioners ponder cell phone law

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

February 3, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - All drivers have done it, gotten distracted while behind the wheel from eating, Changing the radio, Or talking on the phone. The Albany City commission wants to prohibit at least one of those distractions.

Commissioners are considering fining drivers who cause wrecks while talking or texting on cell phones. One commissioner would like to ban cell phone use by drivers. The automobile and the cell phone. Two technological advances that most people say they can't live without, but can you live without using them together?

"I think we need to educate our citizens that it is a problem," said City commissioner Roger Marietta.  He says it's clear that cell phone use is a danger while driving.

He said, "I think we do need to wake up and stop and minimize the use of cell phones while driving." He would like to do away with their use completely while behind the wheel. But that's not likely to happen.

City Attorney Nathan Davis says by his interpretation of Georgia law, the city isn't allowed to make driving while using a cell phone a criminal act. "The state has already said no to that idea."

But he does believe it's okay for the commission to punish drivers who are using their cell phones when they cause a wreck. "If you take that state law into consideration, it appears to be that if we're going to pass a cell phone ordinance, we need to tie it into some particular event."

Marietta says that would at least send a message to drivers. "This ordinance that we are looking at is at least a message that they'll be some more consequences." If the ordinance were accepted as proposed, drivers would be fined $500 for cell phone use that caused a wreck.

The city commission tabled the issue for Tuesday. They want to see cell phone ordinances in other communities in Georgia. They are also interested in reviewing a federal report that compared cell phone use to drunken driving, and any pending bills the Georgia legislature is considering regarding cell phone use and driving.

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