A proposed House bill that would ban people from sending or reading text messages while driving has hit a bump in the road. Stumped by questions about how the new law would be enforced and how would a police officer determine if someone was sending a text message as opposed to say, making a phone call, forced the House of Representative’s public safety committee to send the bill to a study committee.
“It’s a valid question,” said Rep. Allen Peake (R-Bibb County), the author of one of two bills that would ban texting. “This is the way it should be done. I look forward to perfecting the bill.
Peake, along with Rep. Amos Amerson (R-Dahlonega), both testified Wednesday about their similar bills that would ban texting, while imposing healthy fines and points on an offender’s driver’s license. But committee chairman Burke Day said, based on the number of questions, that it would best to further study both bills and refine them into one.
Two weeks ago, the two House members dropped the no texting bills. Peake’s bill, HB 938, says that anyone found guilty of writing, sending or reading a text message while driving would be fined $50 to $100 and have two points placed on their drivers’ license. Amerson’s bill places the fine at $300.
“With the proliferation of cell phone usage, we must address this clear and persistent public safety issue,” Peake said.
But Rep. Gloria Frazier (D- Hephzibah) asked how police officers would be able to detect texters.
“We pass a lot of laws and we don’t try to determine how to enforce them,” Amerson said. “It is like the seat belt law. I am sure they will come up with a method.”
The committee, scheduled to last an hour, actually reached its time limit before anyone was able to testify on the bill. One person not allowed to testify was former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones.
In 2006, during his tenure as CEO, DeKalb established a law that fines drivers up to $500 for improper use of a mobile telephone is deemed a contributing factor to an accident.
Jones, who is running for Congress to represent the 4th Congressional District, said DeKalb has the only policy in the state that actually works.
“The word got out quick in DeKalb and it has acted as a deterrent,” Jones said. “Either you say, if this causes as accident, you will be fined. Or you can’t use cell phones at all. That makes it clean and efficient.”