State lawmakers debate new distracted driving bill

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Georgia state representatives are debating the addition of new laws meant to crack down on distracted driving.

Part of the issue, they argue, is deciding which technology they should allow drivers to use while on the road.

State lawmakers argue a rise in traffic deaths, linked to reported cases of deaths caused by distracted driving, is a reason to push for these restrictions.

The other part is whether parts of the bill would be considered government overreach.

As it stands, House Bill 673 would prohibit drivers from doing the following:

  • holding a "wireless telecommunications device" with any part of a driver's body
  • Writing, reading or sending any texts, emails, or messages
  • Watching videos or anything that isn't a navigation app
  • Reaching out for the phone if it means a driver is no longer in an upright position

Lawmakers say HB 673 would allow drivers to use other technology:

  • Speaking or texting by using "hands-free" technology, like Bluetooth
  • Using a GPS or navigation app
  • Communicating using a prescribed device, CB radio, HAM radio, or other two-way devices

As for exceptions, the bill would allow drivers to hold their cell phones if they are reporting a traffic accident, fire, crime or medical emergency.

In looking at reports from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety in Georgia, the numbers show there's been a slight uptick in the percentage of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes, from 2013 and 2014 into 2015.

Since 2010, there's been a significant drop in the percentage of reported distracted driving deaths in Georgia.

However, as of 2015, the rate has gone back up by less than one percentage point.

The problem, experts conclude, is that distracted driving is severely under-reported.

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