Plea to the governor: Don’t veto texting-while-driving bill

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

121 comments Add your comment


May 28th, 2010
9:47 am

I’m not sure if any effort to reason with this governor will produce a fruitful result. Is it just me?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by GraceBarkwell, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Plea to the governor: Don’t veto texting-while-driving bill [...]


May 28th, 2010
10:38 am

I haven’t found a police officer or prosecutor who wants this bill. Every one of them says it will be impossible to enforce, impossible to prove that a violation has occurred when the matter goes to court, and that it is a waste of time and resources. Gov. Perdue should veto this piece of legislation.


May 28th, 2010
10:59 am

I agree completely that people should not text while they are driving.
We don’t need a law for it. Same with seat belts and helmets.
Take some personal responsibility. If you don’t want your kids to text and drive, teach them not to do it, don’t give them a phone, or don’t give them a car.


May 28th, 2010
11:01 am

When the seat belt law was first introduced, a lot of people said it is not enforceable. I think the same thing happened about cell phone use while driving in other states. I’m not sure what is meant by “enforceable.” You can easily observe if anyone is texting. With all those dashboard cameras and other technology, I don’t see why this law cannot be enforced.

Speaking of an unenforceable law, doesn’t the city of Kennesaw has an ordinance that REQUIRES each household to have a gun? That will be an example of an unenforceable law – how do police establish a “probably cause” to search the house?

@ Jay

May 28th, 2010
11:03 am

Personal responsibility is fine for things you do in your own privacy. When your action/inaction can cost public something, then it is perfectly appropriate to have a law regulating those activities, IMHO.


May 28th, 2010
11:34 am

Rewrite the entire piece but replace the phrase “texting while driving” and “TWD” with “by being stupid” or “by doing stupid things” and it makes just as much sense. Being stupid and/or doing stupid things causes untold amount of damage to our society and kills millions of people every year and should be outlawed!

let's start with the top

May 28th, 2010
11:40 am

@ James,

I agree, just look at what our the most recent ex-President has done.


May 28th, 2010
12:07 pm

Maybe law enforcement officers won’t be able to catch all those who are TWD just like they can’t catch all drunk drivers. However, if a texter causes an accident, having a law against texting would allow charges to be brought against that person.

Been there done that...for 33 years

May 28th, 2010
12:10 pm

Can they not check phone records for verification of texting while driving?


May 28th, 2010
12:11 pm

If their is no money making scheme to help out his(Perdue) pockets then why should he sign it?


May 28th, 2010
12:13 pm

should be there not their


May 28th, 2010
12:50 pm

So which of you want to drive in traffic with other drivers texting while they drive at 40-70 mph? Anybody want one of those drivers behind you when traffic comes to a screeching halt?

The law won’t stop it anymore than DUI laws don’t stop drunk drivers. However, there are plenty of law abiding people who would quit if they knew its against the law and that they could go to jail if they hurt someone while doing it. The ones that don’t quit sould go to jail.

Think about it; it takes both hands to type the text at the same time the driver’s eyes are off the road. The problem is only going to get worse until there are penalties for that behavior. I am a prosecutor and I will gladly prosecute someone who maims or kills an innocent person for driving while texting. Right now that might simply be called an accident and officers would likely not investigate a texting claim.

The governor needs to sign the bill and parents need to get tough with their teenage drivers.


May 28th, 2010
1:37 pm

I’m fine with the law banning all cell phone use by teens but against the one that the Governor will perhaps veto. And, Mr. Bob the prosecutor, the burden of proof will still be your responsibililty. The manner in which the bill is written makes this impossible. I pick up my phone to answer a call and the police officer behind me “thinks” I am “reading” an email? Now, you tell me, How I am then supposed to “prove” my innocence or, better, tell me how you will “prove” I was reading? The bill is simply poorly written.

Ros Dalton

May 28th, 2010
1:49 pm

Enforcement is a moot issue, this kind of law is about establishing a standard of behavior. Right now there is no universal expectation of danger or potential punishment for texting while driving. Yes, that’s so because people are collectively rather stupid and unwilling to educate themselves, but you can’t force people to learn so what needs to be done is to take the choice out of their hands.

These kinds of laws do show results. They’re by no means an ideal solution, but they are better than doing nothing.

drew (former teacher)

May 28th, 2010
1:56 pm

Seems like a no brainer to me…the bill should be signed, period. And if no one wants to enforce it, so be it. The fact is, texting while driving is stupid and endangers not only the driver, but everyone else on the road with them. And if the bill does nothing but provide some closure for Caleb’s family it’ll be worth it.

bootney farnsworth

May 28th, 2010
2:32 pm

what possible reason can Sonny have for not siging the bill?
even if he disagrees with it, objecting makes him look even more

John Foster

May 28th, 2010
3:21 pm

There’s no need for an extra law. Reckless Driving charges can be levied against any person who causes an accident while doing anything improper. We don’t need more laws. We need to get creative about enforcing the ones that are already on the books. As for other people’s activities endangering me, I bought a life insurance policy as a hedge against their activities. I also updated my will, and power of attorney if I end up in a persistent vegetative state. We’re all going to die one day. There’s no need to get all irrational about that eventuality.

Northview (Ex)Teacher

May 28th, 2010
4:20 pm

Too bad there’s not a law against governing while stupid.


May 28th, 2010
4:39 pm

Boss Hog is at it again! So much for common sense. Maybe he’ll finally get those Duke boys!


May 28th, 2010
4:41 pm

What do you expect…Sonny Perdue is a moron. He probably can’t read the bill so he doesn’t understand it. I could never figure out how this idiot got elected governor.


May 28th, 2010
4:42 pm

ANSWER: LAW should read that TEXTING while driving is illegal, BUT you cannot be pulled over for TEXTING only. However, if you are in an accident and there is ‘reasonable suspicion that you were TEXTING, then the court can subpoena your TEXTING phone records to be used in court. This would make people think twice about TEXTING, AND it would avoid people getting pulled over and/or ticketed by TEXTING. WOW, THAT WAS HARD TO FIGURE OUT!!!


May 28th, 2010
4:46 pm

ANSWER: LAW should read that TEXTING while driving is illegal, BUT you cannot be pulled over for TEXTING only. However, if you are in an accident and there is ‘reasonable suspicion that you were TEXTING, then the court can subpoena your TEXTING phone records to be used in court. This would make people think twice about TEXTING, AND it would avoid people getting pulled over and/or ticketed by TEXTING. WOW, THAT WAS HARD TO FIGURE OUT!!!

Warrior Woman

May 28th, 2010
4:46 pm

The proof of call v. text is in the cell phone records. It’s simple to check whether the phone activity was a call or a text.

Concerned Parent

May 28th, 2010
4:46 pm

“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?”

Really Sonny, I am not a trained officer yet I can ALWAYS tell when someone is texting while driving. PASS the bill and save some lives.

Bubba the Goat Hunter

May 28th, 2010
4:49 pm

The kid who crashed through my fence while speeding and drunk, also admitted to police he was texting, too.

The OX

May 28th, 2010
4:53 pm

I can’t say I am surprised. The same elitist that imposes his own morality on the people by not letting them vote on Sunday alcohol sales. So you don’t have to enforce it. But when your son or daughter or loved one is killed and cell phone records prove that the offended was texting then you wil lbe glad you had the law to assign liability. Maybe Sonny likes texting and driving. HE is probably too tied up with his rigging his hometown land deals to really think about it.


May 28th, 2010
4:53 pm

I think there should be a law against putting on makeup while you’re driving (MWD), eating while driving (EWD), drinking coffee while driving (DCWD), screaming kids in cars while driving (SKCWD) . . . oh wait – there is – it’s called reckless driving and if you hurt or kill somebody while doing these things, I’m pretty sure you can be arrested and punished; the same thing applies to texting. Common sense says don’t do it – but people do anyway. My daughter just turned 16 and signed a contract saying that if she is caught texting while driving (very easy for me to tell via, she will not drive again until she is 18. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t TWD. HAGD everyone.

Ole Guy

May 28th, 2010
4:55 pm

There exists, within nature, the law of survival of the fittest. Within the human domain, mental, as well as physical fitness impacts upon this law. If people insist on becoming victims of Darwin, so be it. The sad part, however, is that these people seem to have absolutely no compunction that their deeds may likely destroy the lives of, not only their own loved ones, but the loved ones of others. No other decision could exemplify self-centered selfishness better.

We often lament the need for legislated decency and common sense. What’s worse is state leadership who neither sees nor understands the need for such legislation.

american 2

May 28th, 2010
4:56 pm

Veto the seat belt law. I want to have a choice as an American whether I can do this or not…why does the government feel it should intervene in my right to chose what I feel is best for me. If I die, I die….I need NO One to dictate my personal freedom – whether I die or not as this is America right?


May 28th, 2010
4:57 pm

yeah great.. another BS reason ie..seatbelts.. that the police can use to pull over ANYONE they want at ANY time.. ” yes your Honor.. I saw she glanced down at the side of the car.. i thought she was texting”…

THANK YOU Sonny for having the guts to veto this attempt to further undermine our civil rights..


May 28th, 2010
4:58 pm

I think it’s a GREAT law..
Let the police pull over every damn Hispanic-looking driver under the pretext of “texting”,
then they can check their status.. and send ‘em the hell back to Mexico..


May 28th, 2010
5:00 pm

Why don’t they use video cameras from major intersections? Time the idiocity, and send the court summons. The driver can be identified from the camera. There has to be a way!! Not only is TWD causing deaths in Georgia, but the driving quality has dropped significantly! Crackberry plus Facebook equals disaster on the road just waiting to happen!! Ya’ll have a great and safe weekend!


May 28th, 2010
5:01 pm

Being a distracted driver is allready illegal. The young man and many others break this law all the time. Why would these people obey this law?


May 28th, 2010
5:01 pm

Eric, you’re an idiot!

DCSS Teacher

May 28th, 2010
5:02 pm

Well, gee, we can’t reliably enforce “thou shalt not kill”, so let’s just make it OK to commit murder! And it’s hard to enforce no smoking laws in restaurants, too, because sometimes people just put out their cigarettes when the maitre d’ comes over–so let’s all just light up! This law MUST be passed! The only way this kind of private behavior changes is if people fear being caught. Texting while driving doesn’t just endanger the texter, it also kills people who get hit by his or her car. It’s bad enough that we allow cellphones in cars: banning them is the direction we need to go in, not “you can’t tell whether someone is texting or dialing, so let’s allow both forms of distraction.”


May 28th, 2010
5:05 pm

Here is an idea,and it goes for duis too: make the penalties so severe that few would risk it being unenforceable. Ten year license suspension or something like that. I know people with multiple duis who have never lost their license for more than a year. If I thought I was going to lose my license for even one year over cell phone use, I would leave the damn thing in the glove compartment.
Of course, the real problem is that too many morons have driver’s licenses and cell phones. if someone is moronic enough to text and drive then that person should lose a license he/she shouldn’t have anyway.


May 28th, 2010
5:05 pm

Life-long conservative and voted republican since 1964 (Barry Goldwater); I hate to say it but Sonny will go down as our worst Governor since Ernest Vandiver. Why do these new breed politicians go brain-dead once they’re elected?

Big Man

May 28th, 2010
5:08 pm

Bob….who does it take both hands to type and text for? I can text on a standard cell phone with a regular number pad without looking. I can type on my BlackBerry with one hand. It doesn’t take 2. I was a habitual TWDer, but I value my life too much. I put the phone down and just pick up when i’ve reached my destination or at a stop.


May 28th, 2010
5:12 pm

It’s a stupid law that creates a very slippery slope.

If you want to ban texting you need to ban smoking while driving as well. It seems to me that lighting things on fire and holding the burning object between your lips with an infant in his car seat and the windows rolled up while driving is more dangerous. But I don’t know, I’m just a stupid citizen, I need the government to take care of me.

I hope the Gov vetos this crap bill. How do you know I’m texting? Maybe I’m using my GPS on my phone? Is that against the rules?


May 28th, 2010
5:14 pm

To those of you who don’t know, this law clearly could not be enforced by police on the road. Even the seatbelt law would be difficult to enforce on the road. What it does, though, is make those who cause car accidents because they were texting much more liable to tort suits from their victims. Basically, if this bill became law, every time that someone caused an accident while they were texting and were sued by the victims of that accident would automatically be liable for those victim’s damages so long as the victim would prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the person who caused.


May 28th, 2010
5:15 pm

This is impossible to enforce and too interpretable. If I have an iPhone with GPS and I am using that to navigate it would appear that I am texting because I am “looking at my phone”. Frankly, I don’t think anyone should even be touching their phone while driving…or their GPS…or their girlfriend…or their iPod…or their french fries from the drive through. It’s all distractions and it all has the same ability to create the same result. But this is a bad law and should not be signed. It will have zero positive impact and give the police state more power to abuse. Besides, the cops are too busy generating revenue from speeding to save their jobs. I see the most ridiculous driving every single day but there are never police pulling people over for being dangerous reckless drivers – regardless of what’s distracting them. I bet half the people clamoring for this law to be signed sit there in traffic with one hand firmly on their cell phone…how can they use a turn signal? How can they turn their head to look for traffic before they switch lanes? THEY DON’T. But God forbid they hang up their phones. But then they’ll say texting is THE problem. BS

Just me

May 28th, 2010
5:15 pm

Sprocket . . . Perdue was brain dead before he was elected . . the general public just didn’t know that but those around the Capitol knew.
All texting and cell phone use while driving should be banned!! Then it becomes easier to enforce.


May 28th, 2010
5:20 pm

“And if the bill does nothing but provide some closure for Caleb’s family it’ll be worth it.”
Drew, are you kidding me? Are you actually saying it’s ok to pass a LAW so someones family will feel better. You’re a Moron.

“The only way this kind of private behavior changes is if people fear being caught.”
DCSS Teacher, are you joking as well? Oh, I forgot. People always stop doing illegal things because you told them they can’t. That’s why we have no crime. And to think you’re educating young minds. We are doomed.


May 28th, 2010
5:25 pm

I myself have tried to text while I was driving. Almost ran a right light. My phone is with me in the front seat. I will not text while I am driving. Please sign the bill!


May 28th, 2010
5:26 pm

Car wrecks are going to happen as long as there are cars on the road. It doesnt matter whether someone is texting, talking or not talking on the phone. This is an inevitible fact and a chance we all take when we choose to drive a car. The governor should veto this bill, just another piece of useless legislation that will give governmet control over our lives. Sonny understands this, and believes in smaller government, not BIG goverment. We dont need more laws, we need less laws; we need to be more responsible for ourselves. Come on people!!!!


May 28th, 2010
5:27 pm

I reside in Forsyth County where the police openly and avidly target teenagers often abusing their position of power and “harass” the kids. This just seems like another excuse for police to make a traffic stop, automatically assume drinking because of the age, which once that assumption is made its all over. Breathalyzers reading 0.0, 3 cop cars per stop (for those rowdy ‘dangerous’ high schoolers?), drug dogs en route, overreactions, mind games. Its almost comical. It is becoming ridiculous out here, just because a select group of students does drugs condemns them all? I thought the police were here to protect and serve, not be blatantly ignorant and automatically pass judgement! Give them a chance!


May 28th, 2010
5:30 pm

This is a law that cannot be enforced in any way. It is a POINTLESS law that is a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic event.

If you want to make the roads safer start by increasing the difficulty of driving tests and be willing to REVOKE licenses.

I would respect Sonny more if he did veto this bill…


May 28th, 2010
5:33 pm

Duh, I think you are the idiot, not Eric!!!!! We might as well pass a llaw for eating, drinking, smoking etc. while driving. Damn stupid people that want the government to dictate every single piece of their life! Im sorry the young man got killed texting while driving, I really am, but it’s almost like outlawing guns, doesnt make sense!! The gun doesnt kill anybody, the person behind the gun does; if there was no gun, they would use a baseball bat! I hate this bill!!!!! PLEASE Governor, don’t give into this bill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Elliot Garcia

May 28th, 2010
5:37 pm

I am sorry that a young man is dead, but you shouldn’t have to legislate common sense. This law is impossible to enforce and a complete waste of time.