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Texting behind wheel banned

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POSTED: June 9, 2010 9:56 a.m.
In an effort to cut down on techno-savvy drivers’ deadly distractions, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill last week banning texting while driving and cell phone use behind the wheel by teen drivers.
The bill, dubbed Caleb’s Law, was named in memory of Dahlonega resident Caleb Sorohan, 18, who died a week before Christmas when his car crossed the center line on a rural highway and crashed into a truck carrying horses. Police determined texting had caused the fatal accident.
Caleb’s Law was sponsored by Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming) chairman of the Public Safety Committee, according to the state Senate Press Office. Law enforcement must now figure out how best to enforce the ban which officially goes into effect July 1.
The new law “will prohibit the use of a mobile phone for writing, sending or reading a text-based message while operating a motor vehicle.”
“It will be a challenging law to enforce,” Hinesville Police Department Traffic Crash Investigator Lt. Max McLendon said. “If we have a serious accident, injury or death, of course we can pull cell phone records to see if there was (cell phone) use during a crash.”
McLendon said anyone younger than 18 cannot speak on a cell phone, text or “use the Internet in any manner” while driving.
“If they’re caught it will be a $150 fine and one point against their license. If they’re in a crash, the fine would double,” McLendon said.
Adults with a class C license cannot text or use the Internet “in any manner” while operating a vehicle, he added. They would also be fined $150 and have one point against their license “if we can prove (texting) contributed to a crash,” the traffic investigator said.
McLendon said he personally can’t recall when texting contributed to a crash in the city.
“There’s been speculation, but there’s nothing we can prove on it,” he said. “Before the law passed, there was no offense committed.”
However, Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Bruce Deloach confirmed the GSP has investigated wrecks locally “where cell phone use has been a factor.”
Deloach said he has come across a number of drivers who would not admit using a cell phone or texting before a crash occurred.
“We now live in a multi-task society,” McLendon said.
He listed such simple distractions as a mother tending to crying children while driving or a driver changing a CD as common factors that have contributed to accidents.
The traffic investigator, who heads the unit that investigates 90 percent of the crashes in Hinesville, said the top two causes of accidents he’s investigated have been “people who fail to yield the right-of-way and people who follow too closely.”
According to the Georgia Senate Press Office, texting while driving is currently banned in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
The governor also signed a law last week compelling pickup drivers to buckle up along with folks who drive other types of vehicles.
“Pickups have changed over the years, and are often used to get back and forth to work on an everyday basis,” Perdue said. “Today, they are out on our expressways and bypasses, as well as farms.”
The new law exempts off-road and pickups involved in agricultural operations.
 

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