Dave Belton is an airline pilot who serves on the Morgan County school board. He worked very hard to assure passage of a bill banning texting while driving in the aftermath of the death of a college student from his area.
(Update Saturday morning: Belton is en route to South America for his pilot job, but has done four TV appearances in the last 48 hours to create public awareness that the texting bill is in jeopardy. His e-mail list is calling and e-mailing on behalf of the bill and the Facebook page for the legislation grew to over 1,200 people in just a few hours. Supporters are getting out in full force for this bill in the next five days as the governor is likely to act by Thursday. )
He won passage of the bill, but says now the governor may not sign it. Belton said he had a short meeting with Sonny Perdue today, but the governor remains skeptical of the ability to enforce this law, explaining “The issue is whether law enforcement would pull you over for glancing at your cell phone. Were you ‘reading a text’ which is illegal or placing a call which is legal?”
But Belton said the bill’s advocates vetted the bill with the governor’s lawyers. Without the bill, Morgan says it is likely 240 Georgians will die every year in texting-related accidents.
Here is his plea to Sonny Perdue to sign Caleb’s Law:
A bill sits on the governor’s desk that 91 percent of the public supports.
So why doesn’t he sign it?
“Caleb’s Law” was born last Christmas when an 18 student young man from Morgan County accidentally killed himself texting-while-driving. Instead of hushing up their son’s mistake, the brave Sorohan family went public, boldly taking their story to anyone who would listen. When they asked me – a local School Board member – to lobby for a law, I humbly said I would.
Our sad and difficult journey came to apparent fruition when the Senate voted unanimously and the House by a 113-24 margin to pass SB-360 – “Caleb’s Law.” The bi-partisan vote came on the last day of the session, after months of pain-staking work was done to perfect the language. The slain teen’s mother – sitting in the gallery – wept. Her only hope – her sole consolation – was that other mothers wouldn’t have to suffer the way she did.
Her solace was short-lived, however, when she learned the governor may veto the bill she’d fought so hard – and lost so much – to craft.
According to “Car and Driver,” the reaction time of someone TWD is three times worse than when legally drunk. The Department of Transportation claims that TWD causes 1.6 million accidents a year, causing half a million injuries and 6,000 deaths. Literally hundreds of Georgians die every year TWD.
Yet the governor’s office quibbles over “enforceability” issues?
Law enforcement doesn’t get the credit they deserve. They’re professionals. They’re trained to make life and death decisions every day. The idea that their unqualified to handle TWD cases is ludicrous, and frankly insulting.
No bill is perfect. Lawyers vetted this legislation for months. To kill the bill now would be a gross abrogation of the will of the hundreds of citizens all over the state who lobbied for this bill.
It would be a tragedy if the governor killed this bill, because it would literally kill more Georgians. Hundreds more – every year. The statistics prove it.
Law enforcement wants this law. So do cell phone companies. Insurance companies spend millions warning about the alarming statistics. Even lawyers are posting expensive billboards in an effort to stop this deadly epidemic.
Infinitely more important: mothers want this law.
Dave Belton (R), Board of Education member, Morgan County