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Proposed law would make punishments for texting while driving harsher

A new texting-while-driving law is being pushed by a Republican state representative to more severely punish those who use their cellphones behind the wheel.

The new law, if passed, would not only increase penalties for drivers who are caught, but would also cost drivers points on their driving record.

In addition, the penalties would increase by a large margin, ranging anywhere from $150 to up to $900 for those who are repeat offenders.

The mastermind behind the bill is John Carson, who represents Marietta. Carson said that Georgia’s current law for hand-held usage while driving just doesn’t cut it. He called it the “DUI issue of our generation,” and that this particular issue is responsible for more and more crashes and fatalities, according to WABE in Atlanta.

Statistics compiled by a House Study Committee on Dec. 31, 2017, definitely support Carson’s claim. According to the committee’s findings, traffic crashes in Georgia are up 36 percent from the 2014-2016 period, while fatalities resulting from traffic crashes increased by 34 percent over the same time frame.

Not only did these figures increase over that period, but Georgia roadway deaths also hit a high in the year 2016, with over 1,500 fatalities, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. The DOT also reported that distracted driving was a huge contributing factor to these roadway fatalities.

Carson and other officials are hopeful that the new law will discourage drivers from being on their hand-held devices, as the 13 out of 15 states that enacted “hands free” laws regarding the issue saw a 17.5 percent decrease in traffic fatalities.

While this all sounds well and does have good intentions, statistics show it could mitigate traffic fatalities. This issue still faces a unique challenge: effectively enforcing the law.

According to WABE, police officers have complained that it is incredibly frustrating and tough to determine whether a driver is texting or on the Internet, or if they are simply just dialing to make a phone call, which is permitted.

In addition, under this proposed bill, answering a phone call, hanging up or using your phone for GPS directions is still permitted. Some police officers have made it clear to lawmakers that the texting law is not effective because there were more Georgia traffic fatalities per Vehicle Miles of Travel in 2016 than before the texting law went into effect in 2010.

On campus at VSU, students had mixed opinions about the proposed new law.

“Yes, I don’t text and drive to begin with, but I think it would help a lot of people because there really has been a lot of accidents because of it,” Kailey Bowden, a biology major, said.

Daniel Murphy, a psychology major, said the bill wouldn’t have the desired effect, at least on him.

“It really wouldn’t stop me,” he said. “I have tinted windows, so how would they even be able to tell?”

Story by Grant Palmer, Staff Writer. 

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