Last week Georgia joined the growing list of states passing laws to address driver distraction by cell phones and text messaging, as follows:
A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle, provided that, except as prohibited by Code Section 40-6-241.1, the proper use of a radio, citizens band radio, or mobile telephone, or amateur or ham radio shall not be a violation of this Code section."
(a) As used in the Code section, the term ‘wireless telecommunications device’ means a cellular telephone, a text messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand alone computer, or any other substantially similar wireless device that is used to initiate or receive a wireless communication with another person. It does not include citizens band radios, citizens band radio hybrids, commercial two-way radio communication devices, subscription based emergency communications, in-vehicle security, navigation devices, and remote diagnostics systems, or amateur or ham radio devices.
(b) No person who is 18 years of age or older or who has a Class C license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data.
(c) The provisions of this Code section shall not apply to:
(1) A person reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, serious road hazard, or a situation in which the person reasonably believes a person’s health or safety is in immediate jeopardy;
(2) A person reporting the perpetration or potential perpetration of a crime;
(3) A public utility employee or contractor acting within the scope of his or her employment when responding to a public utility emergency;
(4) A law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties; or
(5) A person engaging in wireless communication while in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked.
(d) Any conviction for a violation of the provisions of this Code section shall be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $150.00. The provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof. The court imposing such fine shall forward a record of the disposition to the Department of Driver Services. Any violation of this Code section shall constitute a separate offense."
No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing a headset or headphone which would impair such person’s ability to hear, nor shall any person while operating a motor vehicle wear any device which impairs such person’s vision; provided, however, that a person may wear a headset or headphone for communication purposes only while operating a motorcycle. This Code section shall not apply to hearing aids or instruments for the improvement of defective human hearing, eyeglasses, or sunglasses. This Code section shall not apply to any law enforcement officer or firefighter equipped with any communications device necessary in the performance of such person’s duties."
Violations glean one point under the driver’s license point system.
Ken Shigley iis treasurer of the State Bar of Georgia, of which he has been elected to become president-elect on 6/19/10 and president on 6/4/11. His law practice focuses on representing people who are catastrophically injured, and families of those killed, primarily in spinal cord injury , brain injury, burn injury , products liability, trucking and bus accidents, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, and cases. Much of his practice is focused on tractor trailer, big rig, 18 wheeler, truck and bus crashes. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, has been listed as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), among the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale).
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