MILLEDGEVILLE — Since the enactment of the state’s texting while driving law, which prohibits the act behind the wheel of a vehicle, few local offenders have been cited.
Baldwin County is not alone.
According to a study done by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 2012, out of the 39 states that have laws that ban texting while driving, a driver stands little chance of getting ticketed for texting with some state agencies averaging fewer than one citation per day.
“No one seems to really know how often police are writing texting citations,” says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently via press release. “We’re noticing that there’s a general perception that there isn’t much enforcement at all.”
According to data from the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, this year there have been a total of seven citations written and 14 since the law was passed in 2010. Georgia State Patrol troopers have given out between five to 10 citations in Baldwin County for this year thus far.
The Georgia law, which became the law of the land in July 2010, prohibits drivers from using a wireless telecommunications device while operating a motor vehicle on the public road or highway. The fine for violation is set by statute at $150 and one point on the driver’s record.
The AAA study on texting while driving laws also indicates that most drivers feel the law applies more to teen drivers, rather than experienced adult motorists.
“Highway safety advocates across the country are waiting on conclusive data that indicates if texting on cell phones is more dangerous than talking on them. Until then, there is clear data that teen drivers are the most easily distracted drivers and parents should discourage these inexperienced motorists from using cell phones while driving, regardless if they are talking or texting,” Kissinger said.
In March, an all-teen board appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended major changes to teen driver education strategies and asked for harsher penalties for teens who break Georgia’s law banning motorists from sending text messages and using smart phones while on the road.
Members of the Governor’s Commission on Teen Driving have also asked lawmakers to ban handheld phone use for all Georgia drivers.
The number of teen driving deaths, however, indicate that younger drivers may be getting the message more effectively than their adult driving counterparts.
A report released earlier this year shows that while motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, younger drivers in Georgia are experiencing fewer fatal accidents. According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, 16 and 17 year-old drivers in Georgia between January and June of 2012, which is down from six deaths during the first half of 2011.
Texting-related fatalities remains high — too high according to adults who know firsthand.
“Based on the latest data, 18 teens die everyday nationwide from reckless driving. The number one killer is traffic accidents and the big contribution to that is alcohol and texting while driving,” said Crawford Finley, Baldwin High School SADD advisor in a February interview.
According to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, an hand-held device such as a GPS or an iPod can also increase the risk of a crash by 3 times.
“Our current ban on texting while driving is a step in the right direction, but it is inadequate to protect people from all drivers distracted by handheld devices,” said Gov. Nathan Deal in a press release on the texting law. “People of all ages should have their hands on the wheel and be focused on the road when they are driving.”
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