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Monday, June 28, 2010

Texting @ the wheel has GTG begun

Georgia's texting while driving ban will go into effect this Thursday, July 1, making it illegal for anyone in the state to read, type or send a text message while driving. But don't expect to get all your texting in at stop signs either - "driving" includes being stopped at red lights or waiting for an arrow in a turn lane.

A study released this month by The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reports that an alarming (but unfortunately not too surprising) 47 percent of adults who text report that they read texts while behind the wheel, and nearly half (49 percent) of all adults say that they've been in a car when the driver was sending or reading a text message on their cell phone.

A violation can cost as much as $100 for adults. Young drivers with only provisional licenses will be prohibited from all cell phone use while behind the wheel under a separate law. Teen drivers (under 18) caught using a cell phone will face a $150 fine - and it's doubled to $300 if the teen is involved in an accident at the time.

Some drivers are saying that the law is unnecessary and difficult to enforce, and, while I completely disagree with the first point, how the authorities are going to enforce this law is beyond me. Law enforcement officers can stop a driver solely for texting, regardless of if the person is driving recklessly or not, but, unless they inspect the sent and received times of the driver's text messages, proving a case seems nearly impossible. Plus, under the law, adults are still allowed to use the keypad to dial a phone number, so drivers pulled over for suspected violation of the ban can easily avoid a fine by insisting that they were just making a call.

Georgia is the latest of nearly 30 states to make texting while driving illegal. According to a study released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, other states are working to enforce the ban by using a combination of media outreach, advertising and a model resembling the “click-it-or-ticket” program.

The study reports that Georgia sends anti-distracted driving messages through social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Their efforts are undoubtedly well-intentioned, but, thanks to smart phones, these safe driving reminders will probably just be checked from behind the wheel.

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