How to Enforce Texting Laws?
Texting and driving is dangerous. Everyone from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to the local police department is shouting from the rooftops the dangers posed by texting and driving.
Nevertheless, texting is just the most recent of the laundry list of items that can distract a driver and cause a car crash. Changing radio stations, brushing one’s hair, eating a hamburger from a drive-through, glancing at papers on the passenger’s seat, programming your GPS, the list goes on and on.
And in Georgia, all of them are illegal if they cause driver distraction, and have been for decades. The forerunner to Georgia Statute 40-6-241 was enacted in 1933.
Now the Hard Part
We all know it is bad. We know we should not do it. But, in a story by the Dalton Daily Citizen, during a spot check of drivers on one street, a police officer reported 24 of 100 drivers were using a cellphone.
For police officers, there is a daunting challenge presented by how to enforce the anti-texting law. Obviously, if an officer is at an intersection, and the driver in the car next to him is staring into their lap, it makes it easy for the officer nab them.
Some of the difficulty results from the fact that Georgia permits drivers, 18 years-old and older to use cell phones while driving, as long as it does not distract them from the activity of driving.
And How Does One Do That?
If an officer stops the driver and they deny they were using the phone, the police would need a warrant issued to search the driver’s phone records to determine if activity on the phone coincided with the time of the arrest.
While this may happen when there is an accident and a full-scale investigation is necessary, for more minor offenses, it may be more trouble than it is worth to attempt a prosecution. An officer may simply issue a warning, but it is unclear if this has a meaningful effect on driver behavior.
The police recognize they are primarily trying to educate drivers at this point regarding the dangers of texting, cell phone use, and other electronic forms of distraction.
What makes texting and smartphone use so insidious is at it is always there. The iPhone or other smart phone is our constant companion, always there; always ready to spew forth information.
Because the activity has become so omnipresent, many may not even realize they are doing it and continue doing it when they drive. Again, they often don’t even consciously recognize the fact they are on the phone, texting or ‘checking’ something on the web.
This type of inattention will eventually, inevitably, lead to car crash. If you have been in an accident with a driver you suspect was distracted, discuss it with your attorney, and they can request the phone records. Anti-texting laws can help, but they can’t insure against texting and driving.