Georgia General Assembly members are considering legislation to improve safety on our state’s roads and streets. Sponsored by Marietta Republican John Carson , HB113 is making its way through House committees as Crossover Day on March 12 approaches.
Current legislation requires that drivers using a smart-phone or other electronic device do that without holding it in their hand or resting it in their lap. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that since the law was put into force on July 1, 2018, Georgia State Patrol officers have written 25,000 citations for violations of this law.
Carson and four co-sponsors proposed increasing the fines for breaking this law. Currently fines range from $50 to a first offense to $150 for a third offense. The bill, in its current version , also includes striking what is referred to as a “get out of jail free card” for first time violations.
David Wickert at the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that close to 7,500 citations were dismissed in Atlanta’s Municipal Court after many of the defendants appeared before the court with a receipt for a phone holder or a hands-free device. The current law requires that violators put in writing that they haven’t used this provision in the past.
Wickert recounts that Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan told a House committee that the absence of tracking the “get out of jail free card” provision means that people can violate the law any number of times in different counties and get away with it simply by not being honest. The inability to enforce this part of the the law begs for correction making it more effective to enforce.
That leaves the increase of fines as a means of reducing violations. Would a higher fine discourage drivers from violating the law? If you look around while you motor on city streets and highways, you’ll still see drivers holding a phone as if the law doesn’t apply to them.
State legislators say higher fines may be a hardship for some people to pay. They want the fines to range from $25-$100 for every offense, with the fine imposed being at a judge’s discretion. That reason doesn’t hold water for me.
Putting the phone down while driving is not something impacted by income. Period.
Increase the fines and remove the “get out of jail free” provision. The Hands-Free law is a common sense, easy-to-follow law that has already demonstrated its benefits for anyone on Georgia’s roads. It’s time to put some bigger teeth in it.