Remember That Texting While Driving Law?

October 31, 2012 10:02 am

by Nathan · 16 comments

Yeah, that one that passed and signed into law back in 2010.  Well, surprise, surprise, it’s not being enforced all that much.

Many law enforcement officers say the law is difficult to enforce. State troopers have only issued an average of 11 citations a month since the law took effect.

Lt. Les Wilburn, assistant troop commander for the Georgia State Patrol, said troopers have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was texting at the wheel, and not merely dialing a number or talking. Most drivers simply stash their phone when a cop is in sight, he said.

“We’re having the same obstacles we’ve had since the law came into effect,” Wilburn said. “They’re looking for us now, because they know it’s against the law, and they don’t do it while we’re in a car sitting right next to them.”

The penalty is also paltry enough that many drivers dismiss the risk. A violation results in a $150 fine and one point on a person’s driving record.

Enforcement of the texting law has been minimal in most counties, state records show. A notable exception is in Gwinnett County, where 665 thumb-happy drivers were convicted — more than in all other Georgia counties combined.

By comparison, Cobb County has convicted 64 drivers, Fulton 43, Clayton 20 and DeKalb 16.

I remember discussion of this law when it was being debated.  I heard that Georgia already has a distracted driving, so the necessity of the law is pretty much moot anyway.  Well, at least that was the argument against the law.  I know we, well, Erick, discussed the impracticality of the law.  He’s right, you can do a lot more than “texting” on a phone.  I’m sure there are a few folks out there that watch Netflix right on their smartphone while sitting in traffic.  Not to mention that you can check emails, send pictures of  the 20+ mile bumper-to-bumper traffic to your friend saying “look what you did by not passing T-SPLOST”, or using the GPS app on your phone to find an alternate route.  Charlie also talked about the law too and how usually these (and other traffic laws) go unenforced anyway because they’re impractical, but they do have that “we’re passing this legislation because it is ‘For The Children(TM)'” ring to it.

Perhaps our dear legislative body may need to put more thought into how the law would be implemented and enforced.  Just a thought.

H/T to Baker over at That’s Just Peachy for posting the link to the AJC story.

drjay October 31, 2012 at 10:49 am

y’all better stop or some “well meaning” lawmaker is going to try to ban all that other stuff you just said right there while driving too…

Nathan October 31, 2012 at 11:06 am

It’s “For The Children(TM)”.

Baker October 31, 2012 at 10:49 am

When “Morning Reads” get shoved over to the next page, or if you’re just curious by the shoutout (Thanks Nathan!), you can find it here http://thatsjustpeachy.com/

File Under the Not Missing an Opportunity for a Plug Folder

seenbetrdayz October 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Heck, I’m surprised they even worry about being able to prove things ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’ We’re almost to the point now where cops don’t even need cause to arrest someone.

bgsmallz October 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Remember when PP ran a snarky story citing how little money the new Super Speeder bill had raised?

http://www.peachpundit.com/2010/07/31/superspeeder-fail/

And then didn’t run a story when the law actually started producing results?

http://www.gpb.org/news/2011/12/28/super-speeder-law-nets-millions

I remember that. That was awesome.

Maybe we should ratchet back the snark just a little bit until we have a little bit more time…

BTW- A GREAT topic for PP to look into would be how much of that Super Speeder money is getting directed to Trauma Care, as was promised. B/c if it isn’t going to Trauma Care, the law needs to be revoked because it was basically a new tax, right?

Baker October 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm

@bgsmallz: Good BTW: The Super Speeder monies are surely going to Trauma Care….after what is very likely a Super Slow trip through the General Fund.

Baker October 31, 2012 at 12:56 pm

All those things are new taxes. Did they ever actually do anything about ensuring the “directed funds” or whatever they are called are actually going where they are directed? It was talked about in last session I know, but I don’t remember any actual concrete action on it.

bgsmallz October 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm

It’s an interesting question….when you compare the adjusted FY 2010 budget to the adjusted FY 2012 budget, you get the following items related to trauma…

In 2010, the state dedicated $67.9 M to Emergency Preparedness/Trauma System Improvement…with 26M coming from state general funds and 41M coming in Fed funds.

In 2012, there is a new line item for GA Trauma Care Network Commission…which is supposedly where those ‘extra’ funds from the super speeder bill are to go. It’s budget is $15.9M to ‘reflect the funds collected from the super speeder bill.’ Hooray, legislature!

But wait…Emergency Preparedness/Trauma System Improvement budget in 2012 is down to $43.1 M….hmmm…that can’t be right, can it? Wasn’t the Super Speeder bill supposed to INCREASE the funding for trauma care not just cover the gap so that we could pay for other things we like better? How could the overall budget for trauma care in the state be dropping when we are collecting $16M more in new revenues that are supposed to be dedicated to increasing spending in that area?

If you guessed that the federal funding for the Emergency Prep/Trauma System Improvement line item stayed roughly the same ($39.9M) and that the state general funding of that line item dropped from $26M to $2.4M (roughly the same amount ‘projected’ to be collected by the super speeder bill) resulting in no net increase to our trauma system despite $16M in new dedicated revenues….then you are a winner. Or the loser, as the case may be.

http://opb.georgia.gov/governors-budget-reports

bgsmallz November 1, 2012 at 10:05 am

I know I probably talking to myself on this one…but it just irks me that we put so much effort into funding more ‘trauma care’ in this state to the point that we passed a super speeder law and attempted to amend the constitution in order to provide direct funding…and that basically it turned out that it was sooooo important that we should cut state funding by 90% and hide that cut using the new revenues from the super speeder law.

Grrr….

Calypso November 1, 2012 at 10:14 am

No, you’re not alone with your irritation on this.

Baker November 1, 2012 at 10:57 am

No. You’re definitely not alone. Another instance of out and out lying from our “conservative” legislature.

Mike Dudgeon October 31, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I was not in the legislature yet when that was passed. However, I have 3 teenage boys and have spoken to many schools and youth groups about politics. They know all about the cell phone and driving laws. Their parents do also. At a minimum, that texting law has raised awareness and put a seed of guilt in more people. Thus I think it has reduced at least marginally the amount of texting while driving, which is of course dangerous.

Andre October 31, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I actually was there when the texting while driving bill was passed.

Initially, it was a bill to curtail teen texting while driving. Then the bill was amended to extend the ban to all drivers, regardless of age.

This happened during the waning days of the session, when legislators just pass bills without taking the time to read them.

I break the texting while driving law every day, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

DavidTC November 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Indeed. Yes, the law is completely unenforceable…but? It doesn’t seem to have any civil rights issue or is causing any sort of problems at all. The worse case scenario is that it’s doing nothing at all. In reality, even if _completely_ unenforced, it at least says that society _does not approve_ of texting while driving.

I know there’s some sort of reflexive objection against having ‘more laws’, but the problem is many laws that are stupid or no one knows about or are used to generally harass people because everyone breaks them. But this law is none of those things. This law is a good one that just happens to be nearly impossible to enforce, so it isn’t enforced. That doesn’t make it a bad law.

If anything, this law does not go far enough…I would outlaw _interacting_ with your phone in any manner that requires looking at it. I.e., you can pick it up and flip it open and speed-dial it by touch, or voice dial it, or flip it open to answer it, or whatever, but looking at the screen instead of the road is not allowed while in motion. (Although not ‘while driving’…it’s perfectly reasonable to look at your phone while stopped at a red light. It should be ‘while in motion’.)

This is probably already technically illegal under ‘distracted driving’, but the reason we make more specific laws is that having to guess what a generalized law ‘probably’ means is not a good system. Plus, that would make the entire thing more enforceable.

DavidTC November 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Oh, and I should add, even if people are going to break the law, the law migrates some of the danger, simply because now they have to watch for _cops_ while they do it, which, tada, means they _have to pay attention to things around them_ to watch for the cops.

Basically, this law helps even if literally no one stopped breaking it, because they are being somewhat safer even while breaking it!

This is sorta the same way that laws about DUIs make things safer even if people are still driving drunk…because they attempt to drive much more carefully to keep from getting pulled over. I am not, of course, condoning that, but someone who is drunk who is attempting to drive perfectly is much safer than the same drunk person who is not bothering to try.

The Last Democrat in Georgia October 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm

“Perhaps our dear legislative body may need to put more thought into how the law would be implemented and enforced. Just a thought.”

Oh, now you want our lawmakers to think, too?

You know that the Georgia Legislature doesn’t get paid to think, they only get paid to make laws. You’re have to pay extra if you want them to start thinking while making those laws.

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