Whether characterizing it as an E-DUI (electronic DUI) or the "DUI issue of our generation," it is not news that lawmakers all over the country have drawn comparisons between distracted driving and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The implication seems to be that distraction by an electronic device amounts to a kind of "intoxication" worthy of classification, whether formal or informal, as a type of DUI. However, it does not appear that distracted driving offenses will ever be treated with the same level of gravity or the same social stigma as "classic" DUI charges. Yet the comparisons persist. “I would call this the DUI issue of our generation,” said Georgia rep John Carson, "and we've got to stop it.” As a result, Georgia lawmakers are currently drafting legislation to make the state "hands free" by stiffening the penalties associated with distracted driving.
If House Bill 673 is passed into law, it would require cell phones and other electronic devices be stored anywhere but in a driver's hands. "Violation of usage of wireless telecommunications device requirement" offenses would be 3 points in Georgia's traffic offense point system, while second offenses would be a whopping 4 points. It would be perfectly legal for drivers to mount their cell phones on their dash, store them in the middle console or on the passenger seat, so long as they stay out of their hands. The problem seems particularly pressing, as Georgians insurance premiums increased over 12 percent on average last year while the national average increased by 5 percent.
Campaigns drawing attention to the perils of texting and driving seem to have pierced the public consciousness at least to an extent. This has led to an implicit inference that only texting is a problem or worthy of note. This is why lawmakers are opting to create a law with "hands-free" provisions. Many times, drivers have been quick to assert, "I wasn't texting, I was just on Facebook." There is a general perception that this is a lesser offense, even if it results in an accident. This can be likened to the demonstrated propensity of some drivers to admit to drug use when they are accused of DUI due to a perception that only drunk -- which is associated with alcohol -- is criminalized. As one athlete stated recently at a DUI stop that he was not drunk, but high. Such admissions never help the drivers case, but the driver does not think of this at the time.
Intoxicated by Tech? Lawmakers Think So
Georgia crashes are up by 36% (between 2014 and 2016) according to statistics gathered by WTOC, who penned the article on this new house bill. Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, links the increase in car accidents to distraction and texting. If this new bill is passed, distracted driving - or even getting caught holding a cell phone in the car - could warrant a whopping 3 or 4 points against your license. The state suspends your license after 15 points in a 24-month period. Although the offense may never rise to the level of severity with which a DUI is treated, a potential license suspension is still a weighty penalty requiring appeal by a skilled Georgia attorney well-versed in the state's traffic law.
Whether you were charged with a traditional DUI or currently face a license suspension, immediately contact a Georgia DUI attorney at 404-816-4440.