Georgia joins anti-texting hysteria

Last week, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue publicly expressed concern that a bill outlawing texting while driving would be too difficult to enforce and might suffer from constitutional infirmities.  However, as happens more frequently than not, the governor went ahead and signed the bill anyway.  This illustrates perfectly the story once told by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, that  “although mankind might occassionally trip over the truth, it usually picks itself up, dusts itself off and continues on its merry way.”

Perdue’s bout of constitutional concern lasted only a few days before he succumbed to the public pressure to criminalize yet another activity.  In outlawing texting while driving, Georgia joins about two dozen other states that have similarly caught the anti-texting craze, being pushed at the national level by our federal transportation nanny, Ray LaHood.  Republican state legislators have shown themselves especially vulnerable to entreaties from citizen groups to enact such laws.

If a driver causes an accident because he or she is distracted by using their cell phone, their Blackberry, or any other device or object, laws in every state make them already liable for any resulting damage or injury; possibly including criminal charges.  Empowering law enforcement to stop and ticket drivers simply for texting, regardless of whether such a distraction causes an accident, is the sort of criminal-law overkill becoming the norm in Georgia and elsewhere.  After all, why leave it at one law criminalizing behavior, when you can have two; or three; or four?

103 comments Add your comment

Mike

June 9th, 2010
6:16 am

You must be short on brain power, Bob. You’re too hung up on your dislike for the governor instead of seeking a rational answer. If a texting driver broadsides my daughter’s car at 30 miles per hours, all the freeking liability insurance in the world isn’t going to hlep.

Paul

June 9th, 2010
6:22 am

Well that sucks, Mike.

I can’t agree with you more, Bob. If someone hits another person because they were texting, they should get fined or jailed. If someone is texting when they’re at a stop light, on an empty highway, or similarly when it’s not a danger to others… then why not?

Dave Briggman

June 9th, 2010
6:29 am

Mike, Bob’s point is that there are already laws that cover people who are texting while they’re driving and that new, special laws covering texting aren’t needed.

deathportal

June 9th, 2010
6:33 am

I hate texting while driving as much as the next person, but I see Bob’s point too. In the Texas town where I live, though, the cops probably won’t catch the person texting while driving. They’re too busy pulling over peaceful citizens for not having a front license plate in plain view, or arresting adults for tossing a football in the street. (I’m not making that up; it actually happened here!)

Lois Reitzes Stole My Breeze Card

June 9th, 2010
6:42 am

Bob, I don’t understand how you can type the words “Sonny Perdue” and “Winston Churchhill” in the same graph without a trip to the emergency room. I hope you’re ok.

bobb

June 9th, 2010
6:47 am

It’s about time something was done about this stupid behavior. I agree that enforcement may be an issue, but liability insurance is not the issue. Texting while driving is clearly as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, and needs to be treated similar. Those that engage in this behavior are making a clear decision to disregard the safety of others. Its about time the roads are reclaimed for transporation and not a rolling office or playroom.

Kesha

June 9th, 2010
6:48 am

So how are the police supposed to determine that you caused the accident because you were on your cell phone? There are so many other things that people do in cars that are distracting and it doesn’t make sense to ban just one.

nelsonhoward

June 9th, 2010
6:57 am

The quote I like about Winston Churchill made when referring to the fighter pilots during WW11. “never have so many owed so much to so few.” Today, he would say, “never have so many had to think so little because of the state “Nanny.”

vracer

June 9th, 2010
7:01 am

Folks may become more aware of the dangers by making it a separate law. It’s easier to remember and that may eliminate one more texting loon from the road.

Joe

June 9th, 2010
7:16 am

The first thing I thought of when hearing Georgia was on the verge of passing this was “doesn’t reckless operation of a motor vehicle” cover it. If police want to stop texters in the act, that law (among others) is perfectly adequate. And I couldn’t agree with Kesha any more. In the case of an accident, will the texting person at fault admit “oh I was just texting a friend and bam.” No way. And yeah. Let’s ban cheeseburgers behind the wheel, along with reading and everything else.

Hey Bob

June 9th, 2010
7:27 am

Let’s ban no holds barred fighting behind the wheel!

Dave R.

June 9th, 2010
7:29 am

“If a texting driver broadsides my daughter’s car at 30 miles per hours, all the freeking liability insurance in the world isn’t going to hlep.”

Neither is a $150 fine, Mike.

Revenue generator for local cops, and another addition to the resume of a largely ineffective state senator.

Gareth

June 9th, 2010
7:34 am

Sorry Bob but on this one you’re wrong, and it’s rare I think you’re wrong!

It’s all fine and well to say that the law would prosecute a driver who is not paying care and attention to driving, thereby driving without control and endangering others, but no amount of money is going to be comfort to the person paralysed in another car, or the family of someone killed.

John Stuart Mill, a man you will be very aware of as a libertarian, advocated that the law should promote freedom wherever that freedom does not cause harm to others. Dangerous driving does not just create harm to others, it can potentially deny others’ freedoms for life. It really isn’t that big an ask for people to either pull over to use their cell phone or use a hands free kit.

If your argument is that some people are not distracted from driving because they can text by touch alone, the logical next step from that would be to allow touch typists to draft reports and memos while driving.

This is a matter for common sense, not for freedom!

Bubba

June 9th, 2010
7:35 am

Let’s do away with DUI laws too. After all, there will be laws to punish me if I kill somebody while drunk.

Billy Hill

June 9th, 2010
7:47 am

How will they enforce this law? Officers are going to be looking for people typing on their cell phones? How will they be able to tell that the alleged offender is actually texting? I have a GPS enabled BlackBerry, and oftentimes use the Google Maps application for directions. I search for my destination while the vehicle is not in motion, however I do glance at my progress when the vehicle is in motion. Would this be classified as texting? How can it be proven that the activity actually was “texting?”

Elliot Garcia

June 9th, 2010
7:53 am

I hear the Georgia Legislature is working on a bill for next session that will ban eating Egg McMuffins and Sausage Biscuits while driving because it could be distracting…

Al Gore

June 9th, 2010
7:58 am

When I invented the internet, I could not believe how my idea was going to mushroom. Making texting while driving a legal no no, raises the bar (no pun intended Bob) on the liability if this activity has negative consequences, like causing a wreck. I don’t see the nanny state here, just rare common sense. I keep noticing it sure is getting warm outside.

Richard

June 9th, 2010
8:10 am

Bob, I have a better idea: Take away the person’s license.

Sorry, Bob, but texting while driving is a danger to everyone on the road. Actions that put other people at an unnecessary risk need some sort of regulation. I would like to live in a world free of morons that don’t watch the road, but unfortunately, we happen to live in what Sarah Palin calls “Real America”.

Scout

June 9th, 2010
8:15 am

Bob:

But it’s still o.k. to read a newspaper, eat a hamburger or brush your teeth while driving. I’ve seen all that and much more.

Mr. Libertarian

June 9th, 2010
8:15 am

Everything should be legal while driving: Drinking vodka, using cellphones, texting, having group sex, playing video games, unlimited speeding in any area, including school zones, watching TV, taking target practice, etc. It’s called freedom, dude.

BADA BING

June 9th, 2010
8:55 am

Daddy, have you kicked someone’s ass yet?

Cindy

June 9th, 2010
9:00 am

Bob, I’m with you. And Billy Hill, I think you also brought up a good point. Every driver on the road doesn’t have a Garmon or something to help with directions. So sometimes, we use our phones for help. Is this not similar to looking at a map or google map directions? And I agree with many other opinions about eating food while driving. Wasn’t a woman killed a couple of months ago when she plowed into the highway divider or something? I believe that the cops blamed the wreck on the fact that the driver was eating fast food. It’s a shame, but some people choose to do it. But should we have *more* laws? I don’t think so. Do I think that hands-free devices are better than none? Yes, though not perfect. (Let’s face it, doing anything other than staring at the road is a distraction. This includes listening to/ adjusting the radio, talking with others in the car, etc! Where do we draw the line?) Authorities already have the power to access our phone records when we get into wrecks, to see if we were using our phones during the incident. I’m not so sure that I want them to have the ability to pry more than that.

Drawing Black Lines

June 9th, 2010
9:03 am

Bob, so…MMA is too brutal and violent (no deaths reported), but texting while driving is no big deal?? Hmmm. Don’t think so

Socrates Stepchild

June 9th, 2010
9:06 am

Bubba, good point. Every state has a legal limit (blood alcohol ratio) to determine a person’s drunkeness/sobriety. This itself is constitutionally suspect, some folks can handle their liquor, while others cannot. It is in the interest of the state to criminalize as many behaviors as possible (revenue). Banning texting while driving is like naming certain crimes “hate crimes”. If a person can text while driving, without incident, what crime has been committed? If a person has three beers after work, and is by GA law legally drunk, but drives home without incident, how has this effected public safety?

Duh

June 9th, 2010
9:18 am

At least I can still shave, read, dial, argue and scratch myself while I drive. It’s a shame the Gov succumbed to the pressures of a few do-gooders and signed this silly law.
Maybe we can pass Stella’s Law to make it illegal to hold, and maybe spill, coffee while driving.

Scout

June 9th, 2010
9:20 am

BADA BING :

LOL !

Swede Atlanta

June 9th, 2010
9:21 am

Bob,I don’t think the point of this law is really about making texting illegal with corresponding penalties. The point is to underscore for drivers the risk associated with multi-tasking while driving. I for one would prefer a total ban on cell phone usage, hand-held or not, while driving because drivers are distracted from operating a motor vehicle that is a killing machine.

I am appalled when I drive around Atlanta at the types of things I see people doing while driving. They may be eating, drinking, shaving, putting on their makeup, texting, jabbering away on a cell phone, reading a newspaper or book. I wonder how many are getting a little action while motoring down our roads.

Why should this be a constitutional issue? Operating a motor vehicle is not a right. It is a privilege that is subject to reasonable regulation. Studies have repeatedly shown that people that are distracted while driving are more likely to have an accident. I agree that distractions can be from listening to the radio or music, watching tv or even just having a conversation with a passenger. But there is no reason a person needs to text while operating a motor vehicle. If this communication is so important then give it the attention it deserves. Pull off the road and complete the communication and then resume your trip.

uga_b

June 9th, 2010
9:22 am

All of these things are distractions commonly found in cars:

Speedometer
Gas Tank Indicator
RPM Gauge
Engine Temp Indicator
Indicator Lights
Windshield Wipers
Air Conditioner
Radio
Side Mirror Controls
Window Controls
Sunglasses Holders
Garage Door Openers
Air Fresheners
People
Dogs
Phones
Food
Drink
Cigarettes
Cigarette lighters
Newspapers/Books
Random objects that slide around the car making noise
Loose change
Dome lights
GPS Units
Cruise Control
Dry Cleaning

And Georgia Cruise Cards (reduce visibility)

Cindy

June 9th, 2010
9:24 am

@ uga_b: So right.

Morrus

June 9th, 2010
9:28 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.

somewhereinga

June 9th, 2010
9:32 am

I remember driving up 85 one night about 10. I was finally able to pass a yellow Caddy who was blocking the left lane when he FINALLY pulled over to the right. When I passed him I looked over. He had a cell to his ear with his left hand and was typing on his laptop on the passengers seat with his right hand. (don’t ask me what was steering the car!)

I was tempted to pull in front of him and hit the brakes just to see the laptop hit the floor and the cell hit the windshield.

IDIOTS! BUT…if he had an accident…if would have been the other person’s fault, no doubt!

Anon

June 9th, 2010
9:46 am

Where’s the ban on putting on make up in the car? And using a GPS in the car? And eating food in a car? Talking to other people in the car?

What a joke. Try and prove I was texting and not using the built in phone GPS or playing a game on my phone (still legal) when I was pulled over… it would require subpoenaing records from AT&T for text message times, since I would obviously click delete all texts as soon as I was pulled over… so you’re going to spend how much tax payer money all to fine me $100 or so for using my phone in the car?

This is nothing but a political move to silence those who have experienced family deaths from texting drivers. It’s obviously no different then using other devices or makeup or food in the car but our ‘elder’ law makers and parents don’t understand technology so it’s time to ban it!

somewhereinga

June 9th, 2010
9:47 am

Swede Atlanta, Couldn’t agree with you more!

One of my favoritte countries to visit is Germany. I understand gettiing a driver’s license there is HELL! Not only is it costly but it’s difficult. When you look at the drivers on the road there, NO ONE has a cell to their ear. NO ONE is eating. NO ONE is texting. They are DRIVING! They are taught that driving is important and that’s the ONLY thing you do when you are behind the wheel. If you want to eat, text or talk on the phone, you pull over.

Why is that so difficult for us to learn?

somewhereinga

June 9th, 2010
9:52 am

Trust me, ANON, if you are in an accident and someone dies, your phone records and texting records WILL be found, even if you delete them. AND they will be entered into the court records. If the accident was a 12:31AM and your texting abruptly stopped at 12:31AM, it won’t be considered a coincidence.

ncgreybr

June 9th, 2010
9:57 am

uga_b: How much time do you spend reading your “engine light indicator” or your “garage door opener” or your “gas tank indicator” while you are driving?

EJ

June 9th, 2010
9:59 am

While we are at it, let’s ban other distractions:

Billboards
Bumper Stickers
Walkers, Joggers, Runners, and Cyclists
Signs advertising businesses
Street signs
Car radios

So does this give the police the “right” to search your phone when they now pull you over?

“Sir, you had a phone in your hand. That is probable cause that you were texting. Hand over the phone now”.

Exactly where does all of this end?

Michelle B.

June 9th, 2010
10:03 am

No driving with your kids either. They’re too distracting … talking to you … wanting sippy cups … and fighting with each other.

Swede Atlanta

June 9th, 2010
10:11 am

EJ and Michelle B….

See my earlier post. I think the point is to underscore the danger of distractions that can easily be controlled by the driver – i.e. no texting (and in my opinion) no talking on the cell phone.

I would like to have all of the things I have seen people do while driving subject to incarceration at hard labor for 10 years but that isn’t a practical solution to the problem.

bsf

June 9th, 2010
10:11 am

Studies indicate that talking on a cell phone while driving is nearly as distracting as drinking and driving. Texting is more so. Laws are created to protect us from the lowest common denominator, that being the idiot, so we are all treated like one. On the other hand there is simply no reason that a cell phone call or a text cannot be handled by simply pulling off the road. 99% of calls and texts are just noise, and the need for attention/drama/bordom. Do you know anyone that has been killed due to this nonsense that we must talk and text behind the wheel. Think about it.

beet

June 9th, 2010
10:16 am

Imagine instead if Barr had written this:

Empowering law enforcement to stop and ticket drivers simply for drunk driving, regardless of whether such a distraction causes an accident, is the sort of criminal-law overkill becoming the norm in Georgia and elsewhere.

Barr none

June 9th, 2010
10:18 am

I agree Bob. There is nothing wrong with texting while driving and laws against it are infringing on our rights as tax paying citizens. I often text while driving and have only run off the road once and that was without an accident. If I pay for the phone, I should be able to use it. More window tint should be helpful as the new radar to offset this stupid law.

AtlantaGirl

June 9th, 2010
10:20 am

This should be a common sense thing, not a law. What’s next to be banned as a law while driving…reading? putting on makeup? watching a movie (yes, people do this)? typing in (or even looking at) your GPS? eating? reading maps? looking at a laptop? programming your radio buttons?…are all those going to be made laws too? Yes, texting while driving can be dangerous if the person isn’t stopped at a red light or on an open road, but you can be just as distracted doing any of those other things as you can be while texting. And not to mention all the distractions outside the car… I’m not saying you should be doing all of those things while driving, but it just brings up the point of where this will stop and how far it will be taken…

Michelle B.

June 9th, 2010
10:32 am

Actually Swede, we’re in total agreement here. I can’t stand to see some of the thing people do while driving either. There’s a lot of things that I used to do like talking on the cell phone (I don’t know how to text really) and checking email that I don’t because of all the distractions coming from the back of the car. However, I do agree with Mr. Barr that another law is unnecessary because people need to demonstrate personal responsibility. Secondly, law inforcement like most goverment agencies have faced economic cut backs, thus realistically aren’t going to have the manpower to enforce the law any ways. Finally, like stated in the conclusion of the article if a driver does cause an accident due to texting then he/she will face possible “criminal charges” as well as the other charges for the accident. So is another unenforceable law really necessary?

Byron Mathison Kerr

June 9th, 2010
10:33 am

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” — unknown

Steve

June 9th, 2010
10:33 am

What about these moronic women i see putting on a full face of makeup while driving through the downtown connector or down GA 400. Get a grip you dumb broads. Noone is looking or thinking about you so throw your crappy makeup out the window.

lmno

June 9th, 2010
10:35 am

It is pretty unenforceable legislation. And there are already laws to cover this sort of thing.

HOWEVER, its possible that by making this a law, some people might stop texting while driving. And if one person does, then thats a good thing.

bootney farnsworth

June 9th, 2010
10:35 am

sorry Bob, but your arguement dies on one simple fact.

there is NO Constitutional right to drive.
not federal, not state.

the state of Georgia is completely within its rights to set
any and all guidelines regardling the PRIVLEDGE to drive.

bootney farnsworth

June 9th, 2010
10:37 am

this is very enforceable legisltation.
the technology is easily available to see if a person was
texting at a specific moment in time.

Mr. Holmes

June 9th, 2010
10:39 am

This law is no different than the seatbelt law. You may be liable if somehow the cops can prove that your texting caused an accident, but people tend to ignore the worst-case scenario, so that threat alone won’t change behavior. However if they know the cops might pull them over if they see them staring at their phone, that will definitely deter some people (starting with me).

And ANON, the negative reinforcement is there regardless of whether the ticket ends up standing or not. The cop is going to listen patiently to you explain that you were using GPS or playing a game, rather than texting, and write you the ticket anyway. Then when you either pay the fine or go to the trouble of showing up in court to protest, I suspect you will start to wonder whether that game of Scrabble while driving was really worth it.

Some thoughts

June 9th, 2010
10:42 am

The law is not designed to necessarily stop people from texting while driving as that is difficult to enforce. But if they have an accident and it can be proved through phone records that they were texting at the time of the accident it can be used in court against the offending driver. Here are two facts to consider:

• Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated.

• People who text while driving are 23% more likely to be in a car accident.

Source: http://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cell/statistics.html