The latest iPhone, the iPhone X was released to the public this past weekend and sold out almost immediately. Smartphones like this have become incredibly popular in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans own one, and 95% of Americans have some kind of a cell phone. People use their phones everywhere, including in their cars. Unfortunately, it's this use that can endanger others.
According to Channel 2, every day “9 people are killed and 1,000 more are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.” The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system –anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.” The NHTSA states that “texting is the most alarming distraction.”
Texting and driving is already against the law in Georgia. The law states: “No person who is 18 years of age or older or who has a Class C license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data.” O.G.C.A. § 40-6-241.2. A driver who is caught violating this statute can be subject to a fine of $150 and have a point added to his or her driving record. However, lawmakers are considering changing this. The George-Anne reports that state Representative Betty Price introduced a bill, House Bill 163, which would make it illegal to use “handheld devices to make a voice call while driving.” The mother of Emily Clark, a nursing student who was killed by a distracted driver two years ago, stated that she thinks distracted driving should be punished by more than a fine and believes it should be treated more like a DUI offense.
While it's unclear whether lawmakers will go this far, there is a device that can be used to detect whether a driver has been texting, called the Textalyzer, that is similar in name to the Breathalyzer, which is used to detect if a driver has been drinking. According to Channel 2, this device was developed by Cellebrite, a company that makes forensic technology. The CEO, Jim Grady, states that the device could be a “game-changer.” This is because, according to Grady: “The device reveals if and when a phone was active. It would show that they were on the phone just before the crash.” Channel 2's Jim Strickland tested the device out while another individual was driving and found that “[t]he Textalyzer displayed a log with [his] every move.”
The device is not yet in use in any state and there are still questions surrounding it. Would a warrant be needed first? Would there be consequences for refusal like there is if you refuse a breath test? Would drivers be subject to criminal penalties? These are just some of the issues that lawmakers would need to address before legalizing the device for use. Several states do already have Textalyzer legislation in the works, according to Channel 2, including New York, Tennessee, and Illinois. In addition, there is a committee in the Georgia state legislature that is studying the issue of distracted driving and the man heading it up, John Carson, has stated he isn't ruling out legalizing the Textalyzer in this state.
While texting and driving is not yet a crime in Georgia, drinking and driving is. If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, contact Georgia DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today.