Georgia lawmaker wants stronger penalties for distracted drivers

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A Georgia state lawmaker wants to stiffen penalties for drivers who use their cell while behind the wheel.

State Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, introduced House Bill 113 during the 2019 session. The bill would impose higher fines for distracted driving offenses.

Under the proposal, fines for a first time distracted driving offense would range from $50 to $100, penalties for a second offense would range from $100 to $200, and fines for a third offense would range from $150 to $300. HB 113 would also increase penalties for distracted driving offenses committed within school or construction zones, and it would remove the state’s first-time offense waiver.

“We have made tremendous strides in our state to curb the number of traffic accidents and fatalities that are a result of distracted driving,” Carson said in a news release. “While statistics prove that hands-free driving has significantly improved driver safety, House Bill 113 would further our efforts to help save countless lives, bringing us one step closer to ending distracted driving in Georgia.”

After Georgia lawmakers passed the Hands-Free Georgia Act and it took effect on July 1, 2018, Georgia began to experience a significant reduction in year-over-year traffic fatalities for the first time in more than a decade.

In 2018, traffic fatalities decreased by 2.25 percent, and preliminary reports show that traffic fatalities decreased by an additional four percent in 2019. Moreover, deaths from the following categories have decreased from 2018 to 2019: pedestrian, nine percent; bicycles, 30 percent; and drivers/passengers ages 15 to 24, 10 percent.

“We have made significant progress over the past two years, not just in legislation, but also in changing the culture in our state to reduce distracted driving,” Carson said. “However, we all still see distracted drivers on our roads. I look forward to continuing to make this behavior unacceptable and to making our roads even safer.”

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