Cell phones, and in particular, smart phones, are now ubiquitous to our population. They are extensions of us. We encase and bejewel them to suit our personalities. We look at them while conversing with our spouses or friends at dinner, while listening to a lecture either at school or during a professional seminar, and unfortunately, while driving. The multi-function devices warehouse our photographs, operate our calendars, receive and send emails, provide access to social media such as Instagram, Snap-chat, and Facebook, and allow us to communicate through text messaging.
In 2010, Georgia took a step toward penalizing cell phone use while operating a vehicle.
O.C.G.A.40-6-241, et.seq. codified distracted driving. However, there remains too many crashes related to distracted drivers. How many of you have been waiting at a traffic light after it turned green only because someone was looking down at their phone and failed to notice the light change, or even the people around them begin to move? Have you ever driven on the interstate highway and noticed a car weaving about the lanes only to later see a driver looking at their phone? The current laws do not seem to have the desired deterrence impact.
Studies have shown that Georgia has the distinction of having the third highest rate of drivers who text while behind the wheel.
In fact, one study resulted in a finding of 37% of Georgia drivers admitting to texting while driving. As a driver in metro Atlanta, I have personally witnessed drivers texting on both interstate highways and two lane roads. I have had the unfortunate and terrifying experience of a texting driver drift toward me while I run on the side of the road or sidewalk too many times.
For the benefit of our clients and the citizens of Georgia, we have provided the entire text of O.C.G.A. 40-6-241.2 below.
O.C.G.A. 40-6-241.2 (2010)40-6-241.2. Writing, sending, or reading text based communication while operating motor vehicle prohibited; exceptions; penalties for violation
(a) As used in the Code section, the term “wireless telecommunications device” means a cellular telephone, a text messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand alone computer, or any other substantially similar wireless device that is used to initiate or receive a wireless communication with another person. It does not include citizens band radios, citizens band radio hybrids, commercial two-way radio communication devices, subscription based emergency communications, in-vehicle security, navigation devices, and remote diagnostics systems, or amateur or ham radio devices.
(b) No person who is 18 years of age or older or who has a Class C license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data.
(c) The provisions of this Code section shall not apply to:
(1) A person reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, serious road hazard, or a situation in which the person reasonably believes a person’s health or safety is in immediate jeopardy;
(2) A person reporting the perpetration or potential perpetration of a crime;
(3) A public utility employee or contractor acting within the scope of his or her employment when responding to a public utility emergency;
(4) A law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties; or
(5) A person engaging in wireless communication while in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked.
(d) Any conviction for a violation of the provisions of this Code section shall be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $150.00. The provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof. The court imposing such fine shall forward a record of the disposition to the Department of Driver Services. Any violation of this Code section shall constitute a separate offense.