Law Enforcement Agencies Issue Few Anti-Texting Citations

7:06 PM, Aug 30, 2010   |    comments
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  • Monroe Co. Lt. Brad Freeman issued the first and only citation in his department for 'Texting While Driving.'
  • Chief Deputy David Davis, Bibb Co. Sheriff's Office

Texting behind the wheel could cost you, if they catch you.  But so far, several Central Georgia law enforcement agencies, including Houston county, Crawford county and Macon police say they've issues no citations.

Georgia Dept. of Public Safety Spokesman Gordy Wright said he's not aware of any citations at their Central Georgia posts.  That includes Forsyth, Perry, Dublin and Milledgeville.

The 'Texting While Driving' law passed in July but many agencies gave a 30-day grace period that ended Aug. 1.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office Lt. Brad Freeman said he issued their fist and only 'Texting While Driving' citation in their department.

"They could not maintain their lane, their driving, their speed would increase and decrease kind of erratically," said Freeman.

He said he watched the woman text and drive for a couple minutes. Freeman said she didn't argue that she violated the new law and received a fine of $150.  With surcharges, he said, she'll end up with a $210 ticket.   

But Freeman said it's not always an easy ride to spot violators.

You can't tell what the driver is doing while they're making the violations that first tip you off that there may be a problem in the car, he said.  Some factors that make it difficult to spot violators are overcast weather conditions, which makes the vehicles interior look darker than it may be. 

Freeman said nightfall and tinted windows also make it challenging to identify violators.

Bibb Co. Chief Deputy David Davis said they've issued two citations.  In each case, Davis said the drivers swerved, nearly off the road or over a traffic island.  He said each individual admitted to texting while driving.  Davis called both cases "extreme." 

"It would have to be a blatant, blatant violation and prolonged violation," said Davis.

He said you have to determine if someone is actually texting or if they happen to just be dialing a telephone number.  But unlike dialing a phone number, which takes a few seconds, Davis said texting takes longer and is more constant. 

Freeman says not everyone may fess up to the violation and unless the officer could prove it, that would be a difficult road to cross in court.  He said law enforcement has an option if they believe texting caused a serious accident. 

Freeman said investigators could get a search warrant to seize a cell phone or ask for phone records to find out what a driver was doing at the time of an accident.  

Wright said their department categorizes the 'Texting While Driving' law under the offense "Failure to Use Due Care."  Since July 1, he said the state has issued 27 citations that fall in that category.  He said he recalled only a few 'Texting While Driving' citations statewide.

The Georgia State Patrol posts in Central Georgia said they file offenses based on what court it will go to, not by the type of offense.

Macon police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said the new law doesn't have a specific code and is categorized under their "Distracted Driving" category.   Gaudet said they don't recall any citations issued.






















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