Many of you know that my practice here in Atlanta, Georgia is dedicated to representing the victims of other people's negligence in personal injury lawsuits. Many of my clients have been injured in serious car wrecks, some of which were caused by a distracted driver who was using a cell phone or texting while driving (TWD). Many of you know I have often written about the dangers of distracted driving and that I supported the Georgia Legislature's efforts to ban TWD. The Georgia Legislature did just that this session, the Governor signed the bill and it will go into effect this Thursday, July 1, 2010. Many other states also have new laws prohibiting TWD going into force on July 1, also, including Iowa and Michigan. These other states are facing the same questions regarding enforcement of the law as Georgia police officers and state troopers are. One Michigan sheriff said "I want to make sure our officers aren't arbitrarily pulling somebody over just because they have a phone in their hands."
So many of you may have the question of how this law will be enforced? Many police departments are saying police officers will actually have to see with their own two eyes a driver texting before they can arrest that driver. Interestingly, an adult driver may punch in (really can't use "dial" anymore, can we?) a telephone number while driving but simply cannot text or read a text. How will a police officer tell this difference? Bottom line: he won't. He will fine you for TWD and then it will be up to you to try to convince the traffic court judge he was wrong and you were really just calling someone on your cellphone, not texting. Plan to bring your cell phone records with you to traffic court!
I am convinced this new law will save lives. Just get the desire to text while driving out of your system now. You may text while driving freely without fear of reprisal up to midnight this Thursday; after that, drivers beware! In a nod to American entrepreneurship, companies that can help you with your texting while driving addiction are popping up. One example is PhonEnforcer, which automatically turns off your cellphone while you are driving if you lack even a modicum of discipline to do it yourself. Of course, if you have teenagers driving, this might be a lifesaver...literally.
In the meantime, there remain all sorts of things that drivers do that distract them that aren't illegal, including changing the song on their IPOD, putting on makeup, talking, eating, and even reading (yes, I have personally observed many Atlanta drivers with newspapers and books in their hands as they inch through rush hour traffic). But the TWD law is a start and a good one. I, as the mom of a soon-to-be-driving-teenager, appreciate the efforts of the Georgia General Assembly.