Texting While Driving? Gwinnett County Drivers Beware.

Text messaging is fast eclipsing phone calls as the preferred method for efficient communication for both personal and business matters. Our smartphones are never far from our hands, buzzing at all times to signal someone has something important to tell us right away. While driving our cars, however, just the slightest glance at our screens makes us subject to being pulled over and cited by the police. And nowhere in Georgia is that more likely to happen than in Gwinnett County.

Georgia law makes it illegal for a person to "... operate a motor vehicle ... while using a wireless telecommunication device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including by not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data." O.C.G.A. §40-6-241.2. It is therefore against the law not only to type a message while driving, but to read a message or to use a smartphone for any interactive mapping, navigation and/or GPS-based purposes.

A conviction - which includes paying the citation online - for a violation of this Code section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $150.00. While some might see this as a small price to pay for the convenience of instant information, drivers must be aware that a conviction also results in the automatic assessment of one point onto their drivers licenses, which could have serious insurance implications.

The Code section prohibiting texting and driving went into effect in Georgia on July 1, 2010. Between that date and September 1, 2013, there were 3,062 convictions statewide under the law. According to the Department of Driver Services, 1,822 of those convictions were in Gwinnett County alone. By way of comparison, there were 100 convictions in Fulton County, 43 in Clayton County and only 29 in DeKalb County. The vast majority of Gwinnett County tickets are issued by officers on motorcycles, as these officers have the unique advantage of being able to look down into a vehicle from the side, often before the driver notices they are there.

Texting or checking email at a stop sign or red light is also against the law. At Daniels & Taylor, P.C., we encourage everyone to strictly observe all prohibitions on wireless communication usage for your safety as well as the safety of others. If you receive a citation, however, for that one quick peek that you couldn't resist, call our office for a free consultation on how to best dispose of the matter.

Source: The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, September 30, 2013.

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