Around this time last year, we noted to our readers that Gwinnett County planned to put a full court press on texting while driving. One officer has made it his mission to accomplish this important effort. Although many of us know that texting and driving are just as dangerous as drinking and driving, and sometimes we might want to see who just texted or emailed us while we are operating a motor vehicle, it isn’t a good strategy. As a Gwinnett County distracted driver injury lawyer, I have represented those who have been hit or injured by a distracted driver, even while simply sitting at a stop light.
Most people do not realize that being rear-ended by a distracted driver, let alone other circumstances on our roads and highways, can cause serious injury or even death. If you have been involved in an accident involving a distracted driver, you know that feeling of frustration. Why couldn’t that driver have simply waited to send that text or email? That is why the effort to stop this practice is such a high priority for some law enforcement.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that one dedicated Gwinnett County police officer has issued 800 tickets for this illegal practice and intends to reach 1,000 by the end of the year. Judging from the video of this committed officer on the AJC site, he is going to accomplish this and is very very serious about doing so. Inspired by the over 3,400 cases in the United States last year in which someone was killed due to this practice, ten deaths per day, this officer has set out to stop “good people” from becoming bad people by engaging in this practice.
As Officer Myers explains, Georgia law (The Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-241) prohibits the use of any web-based functions and text-based functions while driving. He explains that essentially all applications including navigation applications (such as Google maps) are not permitted because they are web-based functions. The only permissible GPS is a non-web-based device, such as a Garmin or a TomTom. You are not permitted to use a map function on your phone, or do anything that involves typing while driving, such as checking Facebook or texting.
What this means is that under Georgia law if you are behind the wheel and on a roadway, the only thing you are permitted to do on the phone is dial a number and have a live conversation. Sadly, Officer Myers points out, that is becoming more and more rare.
How does Officer Myers accomplish this effort? He says that if he is at a red light and cannot see the screen of a driver’s phone he can tell when they have typed more than ten letters or numbers. That means they are not making a phone call. When pulled over, most drivers “argue” with him. But luckily for Officer Myers, whatever the driver was last doing on their phone is retained and if he has any doubt, he will ask the driver to unlock their phone and whatever that driver was doing last on his or her phone will be retained. He says he has “seen everything.” Most drivers comply with his request that they show him their telephone after being pulled over.
Although some might claim that having their phone checked by law enforcement might violate privacy rights, legal experts note that it is doubtful the right to privacy would be tolerated in a situation in which a person is texting while driving which could injure or kill. Most states prohibit this activity now and it is not declining, so look for the laws in this area to be strengthened, not lessened.
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