Abiding by the new distracted driving law come July 1 requires a few technology upgrades now for some people to avoid getting hit with a fine.
Touching your cell phone in the car should be difficult when both hands should be on the steering wheel. Both eyes should be on the road too. But drivers have many options so they never have to pick up their phones.
Georgia State Senator Harold Jones supported the bill when it hit his desk.
“Accidents are actually increasing in Georgia,” he explained.
We see it almost daily. A crash with injuries, sometimes fatal, occurs across the CSRA and the Peach State. Sen. Jones said the reason for the crashes is due to distracted driving.
He said, “The principal culprit of that is either texting and driving or being on the phone and driving.”
That means it’s time to put the phones down. If fact, no touching them at all. Unless you have to report an emergency, such as a crash or a fire. But that does not mean communicating behind the wheel is out of the question.
“Ear pieces if you have that, headpiece or headphone if you have that. That would actually qualify,” Sen. Jones explained of the bill.
Smart watches are ok too and many offer the chance to decline an incoming call. Cell phones can be set to a Do Not Disturb Auto Reply so text messages and calls are automatically blocked. And no worries, there are apps for that too. And you will need them because violations come with a fine and points taken off your license. A suspended license comes after 15 points in two years.
“First offense is one, second is two and the third offense is three points,” Sen. Jones added.
Of course your cell phone is equipped with GPS apps, but if you do not trust yourself to talk or text, you can get in the car, put the phone down and pick up a traditional GPS navigation.
You can upgrade your vehicle too. We stopped by Fairway Ford where Sales Rep Mary Jones showed us how phones can be synced to cars like the F-150 or any car made in the last 8 years to answer a call.
“And then I hang up right here without even taking my eyes off the road,” Jones demonstrated.
The vehicle also can read text messages and play music.
She added, “That’s the music from my phone. So, you can play anything from your phone through the system. “You just talk to this voice and tell it what you want. You can change the radio station by telling it to change to whatever station.”
If you don’t want to go out and purchase a new vehicle for several thousand dollars, you can use your cell phone. Just leave it in the cup holder and activate voice command options such as Apple’s Siri.
“Hey Siri, can you call Renetta DuBose’s cell phone?”
Siri: “Calling Renetta DuBose.”
And don’t worry, you can also send a text message.
“Hey Siri, can you text Renetta DuBose that I will be about five minutes late for dinner?”
Siri: “Your message to Renetta DuBose says I will be about five minutes late for dinner. Ready to send it?”
“If you have your first offense with this, you can actually take to the prosecutor and show that you have rectified it that does not require you to have it in your hand, you actually can then get the charge dismissed, but you only get one time to be able to do that,” Sen. Jones said.
Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign the bill into law before July 1.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps