This past November, a Smyrna councilman introduced an ordinance that would ban mobile device usage behind the wheel while driving in the city. The ordinance would make all cell-phone use while driving a violation of Smyrna’s traffic laws, including texting, using a GPS, dialing a phone number and holding the phone while talking. Norton told the AJC that although the price for tickets has not yet been determined he thought for first time offenders the cost would be $150. If this ordinance passes, Smyrna will be Georgia’s first hands-free city. This ordinance aims to lower annual traffic fatalities resulting from distracted driving.
Smyrna Councilman Derek Norton got the idea for a hands-free ordinance after attending the House Study Committee on Distracted Driving. According to an article published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, while attending the committee meeting, Norton heard from law enforcement members and victims who suffered directly from distracted driving related incidents.
Georgia currently does not have strict texting and driving laws. Texting while driving is prohibited, but talking on the phone or using a GPS and other mobile features are not covered under current laws. Only drivers under the age of 18 are completely barred from using cell-phones or electronic devices while driving in the State of Georgia.
According to an article released by myAJC, 2016 had the highest number of traffic fatalities for Georgia in almost a decade. Over 1,500 people died on Georgia roads in 2016 and, as of November 2017, almost 1,200 people have suffered the same fate. While there is no conclusion on how many of these fatalities were caused by distracted driving, almost 4,000 citations for phone usage behind the wheel were processed by the Georgia Department of Driver Services. This high number of distracted driving related citations proves the need for stricter distracted driving laws, like the potential new ordinance in Smyrna, to better keep Georgia drivers safe.
While Councilman Norton hoped for the Smyrna City Council to pass this vote by November 20th, the vote has now been twice delayed. Despite the support from the Mayor and other council members the latest cause for delay was that only five of the seven council members were present for the meeting. Kyle Kirkman, a Smyrna resident, expressed his frustration to CBS 46: "Tonight, they were using the excuse they only had five people. They could have voted if they really wanted to have done it tonight.” The ordinance will be brought before the city council again on January 2nd.
Several states have already adopted strict hands-free traffic laws, including New York, Illinois, California and Nevada. While these laws may seem inconvenient to some, they are essential in keeping drivers safe across the nation. While Georgia does not have strict and specific distracted driving laws, an ordinance, like the one Smyrna will vote on, could make Georgia one of the next states to completely ban hand-held devices while behind the wheel and implement harsher penalties for violating such laws.
Distracted driving is an epidemic that causes chaos and damage to drivers worldwide. We can protect ourselves and other drivers by pledging to put away our phones while behind the wheel. No message or phone call is so important that it requires an individual to completely abandon paying attention to the road and put his or her own life at risk as well as endangering those in the surrounding area. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury because of a car accident caused by a distracted driver, call one of our attorneys at Schneider Hammers today.