Georgia passed a broad distracted driving law a few years ago in an effort to reduce distracted driving. The law prohibits drivers from handling their phones (i.e. texting or holding the phone) behind the wheel. The 2018 distracted driving law meant that Georgia joined several other states in their missions to target this issue. But there is a new bill on the horizon that has revealed that this issue is not cut and dry – HB 113. There are different opinions on the matter.
What is HB 113?
A State House of Representative Committee recently backpedaled a proposal that would have affected the fines for distracted driving. The original HB 113 (sponsored by Rep. John Carson) would have made the fines increase. The maximum fine for a first offense would have risen to $100 from $50, and the fine for a second offense would have gone to $200. A third offense would have meant a fine of $300.
However, what actually happened was a little different. The committee okayed a substitute bill, sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell. The fine for distracted driving would be between $25 and $100 according to the judge’s decision, no matter how many previous distracted driving citations the driver had. The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee also added a stipulation that forbids drivers under the age of 18 from using electronics while driving.
What happened with HB 113.
Georgia lawmakers appear to disagree on how to prevent and reduce instances of distracted driving, though safety professionals have said that distracted driving has fueled a rise in traffic deaths.
Rep. John Carson, who sponsored the original version of HB 113, believes that higher fines are needed to dissuade drivers from using electronics behind the wheel. Carson’s proposal of steeper fines for distracted driving was met with approval from police, hospitals, insurance, and traffic safety groups, as well as those who have lost loved ones in distracted driving accidents.
But Powell believes that the fines are too much, which is why he supported the substitute bill. He expressed concern that the proposed fines in HB 113 would be too difficult for some people to pay. He believes that because people follow Georgia’s seatbelt law though the fine is only $15, the distracted driving fines do not need to be so high. (Powell’s version of the bill also gets rid of additional fines that could be added on for the Georgia Trauma Trust Fund.)
HB 113 and teen drivers.
The substitute bill also added a measure that would prevent teen drivers (those under age 18) from using electronics while driving. This was part of Georgia’s anti-texting law until the distracted driving law passed in 2018. (Essentially, this measure would add that restriction back for teen drivers.) Carson is in favor of this measure, but he pointed out in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article that this could also prove to be a point of division among lawmakers and could even threaten the bill’s chances.
The revised bill from Powell was approved by a vote of 7-4.
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