Push to make GA a “hands-free” driving state


Atlanta, GA (WJBF)—Happening now, a push in Georgia’s state capital to make it illegal for drivers to talk on their phone without a hands-free device. A Georgia lawmaker proposed a bill that would increase penalties for distracted driving.

On Thursday, NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne sat down with Richard Baggett—a local father who has a personal connection to this legislation.

Baggett’s 21 year old daughter, Caitlyn, died in the I-16 wreck that killed five Georgia Southern University nursing students. A group of seven young women were headed from Statesboro to Savannah for their final clinical rotations. The truck driver who caused the accident is serving five years in prison. Court proceedings never definitively confirmed a phone or something like it caused him to crash; however, Baggett says there is no doubt in his mind that distracted driving took the life of his daughter.

“It’s time for it,” says Baggett referring to the bill that would make Georgia a hands-free state. “If it can save somebody else’s life, your life, you know. Pay attention to what’s going on in the road!”

Baggett smiles when NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne asked him to describe his daughter Caitlyn.

“Woo! She was a firecracker. Other students in her class…were talking about, if they were scared to ask a question to the professor—give it to Caitlyn. She’d ask ’em!

Baggett recounts the April morning in 2015, when he found out his oldest daughter had died.

“I just happened to pull up on Facebook and, oh, there was a wreck on I-16…so I called her saying well, I know she’s supposed to be at work at six o’ clock. She’ll get the message and call me back. I never got the call back,” Baggett explains.

The current bill headed to the Georgia Assembly would allow drivers to swipe their phone once to answer a call and once to end it. Drivers could also use their cell for GPS navigation, but only with a hands-free device.

If passed, the bill would also increase the fines and points against your license if you are caught driving distracted. Right now, the fine for distracted driving is $150. This legislation would raise the penalty to a range of $300 to $450 for the first offense. Then up to $650 for the second offense and up to $900 for any more than that. Points against your license would go up from one point to three points and four points for every citation after the first one.

The states shown in red already have hands-free driving laws. If Georgia lawmakers pass this current bill, they will be added to the list of states with stricter laws on distracted driving. Previous attempts to pass similar laws have been unsuccessful in the Georgia Assembly.

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