Representative John Pezold, a Republican from Columbus, is working on a distracted driving bill. Currently, Georgia allows use of a cell phone while driving only if talking, not for texting, emailing, etc… Georgia’s distracted driving law also applies if the driver is stopped in their vehicle.
Pezold’s focus is based on sting operations that were conducted last year; one near Bradley Park and the other near Fort Benning Gate. During the police crackdown, more than two hundred fifty (250) tickets were issued for violation of the distracted driving statute.
Columbus police were disguised as civilians in plainclothes, actually working undercover- pretending to be part of a roadside work crew, and then issued tickets to drivers who were using the radio or the GPS, this, even though the vehicle was stopped. I’ve never heard or read before of police actually going undercover to issue traffic tickets. Great use of tax dollars isn’t? I think there are far more important things to focus on from a law enforcement standpoint than issuing tickets for changing a radio station or trying to figure out how to get to a destination while at a traffic light. Then again, it’s easy money and fills up the county coffers quickly.
I’ve experienced similar situations with law enforcement in Miami. I’ve seen what I call “self-created crime waves,” when all of a sudden, there are massive arrests for a particular crime. For years, no one would step into my office with this legal issue, all of a sudden, you are seeing dozens arrests for the same thing.
Once, law enforcement focused on tow truck drivers not filling out multiple forms, which is an industry norm, and thus, tow truck drivers were getting arrested for three, four hundred misdemeanors at once.
There was another time that if you even looked in the direction of a prostitute, you were arrested. That scam was easy to uncover since the Arrest Affidavits were already filled out with the facts that led to the arrest. I guess police in Miami-Dade County are psychics.
My favorite- after the tragedy of 911, the crackdown came in the form of mass trespassing arrests for airport employees. Airport employees were entering areas they did not have clearance for, but they did so daily for thirty years to drop off cafe for their friends. Out of nowhere, federal agents slammed them on the ground, pointed machines guns in their face, and arrested hundreds for misdemeanor trespassing.
I had several friends who worked at the airport and confirmed the stories my clients were telling me, including one part-time employee that had just passed the bar exam and was working nights at the airport.
Feel safer now? Apparently, if you eyes aren’t glued to the windshield, you will be ticketed. What happens if I look at a billboard advertising the services of an attorney? A plastic surgeon? A weekend trip to the Bahamas? Or, another politician running for office including the chief of police? When you are looking for an address- aren’t you distracted? Will police issue tickets to themselves when they are distracted looking for an address?
Sgt. Fred Carnes defends the sting operations stating the distracted driving continued after the light turned green.
“We are not just getting folks who pick up the phone and swipe it one time.”
–“And we are getting people who go through a red light two seconds or more after it changed.”
House Study Committee on Distracted Driving
State Representative John Carson, a Cobb County Republican, chaired a House Study Committee on Distracted Driving and cited the committees’ statistics that concluded that more than sixty-six (66%) of Georgia residents favor hands-free driving.
Per Carson –
“Last year alone, over 1,500 people died in automobile accidents on Georgia roads, and according to a recent poll, over 82 percent of Georgia voters believe that texting while driving is a major contributing factor to the increased number of auto accidents. Distracted diving is an extremely serious public safety concern, and it is absolutely essential that this issue is addressed in the 2018 General Assembly session to prevent further distracted driving-related car crashes and fatalities.”
The above cited poll involved seven hundred randomly selected voters in Georgia. As part of the committees’ recommendation was stiffer financial penalties, which I have been advocating from the beginning. Fines could increase to $1000 and have points accessed against the offender’s license; four points, upped from two. But, at this point, I’m even advocating license suspensions to really get the message across. Distracted driving because of cell phone use is a nationwide epidemic that could easily be curtailed. The committee’s statistics revealed that traffic fatalities decreased by more than seventeen percent (17%) for 13 of the 15 states that had hands-free driving laws.
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