Georgia state legislators are considering a newly introduced bill that would ban the use of handheld phones while driving and also raise the distracted-driving fine from $150 to as much as $900 for repeat offenders.
Additionally, the legislation would raise the point penalty for a distracted driving offense — from one point to up to four points for repeat offenders. Any driver assessed 15 points in a 24-month period would lose his or her driver’s license.
Current state law already prohibits texting while driving. But law enforcement agencies in Georgia have complained the law is virtually unenforceable because officers typically have no way of distinguishing between driver texting and dialing.
The new legislation comes on the heels of the Dec. 31 release of a House study committee report on distracted driving. That study found that traffic crashes in the state rose 36% from 2014 to 2016. Those collisions also accounted for a 34% increase in road fatalities during that period.
The overall spike in crashes was largely attributed to increases in three specific types of collisions, according to the report: rear-end crashes, single-car crashes, and crashes by drivers 15 to 25 years old.
“Public safety personnel state this is clearly indicative of driver inattention,” the report noted.
Drivers in rural areas in the state are also at a higher risk, according to the report.
“A driver in rural Georgia is twice as likely to be in a fatal distracted driving accident as an urban area driver (due to speeds, undivided highways, and more distance to emergency/trauma care centers),” the report said.