Georgia bill would restrict young drivers' cell phone use

| 11/21/2006

Among the first bills to be filed in Georgia for consideration during the upcoming regular legislative session is one intended to minimize cell phone use by young drivers in the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, the bill would make it illegal for 16- and 17-year-olds to use any cell phone while behind the wheel. Violators would face a loss of one point on their driver's license.

Another bill offered by Oliver would charge individuals of all ages with "driving while distracted" if they are talking on a phone and get in a wreck.

The distracted driving bill would fine offenders up to $500 if they cause a wreck while talking on mobile phones. They also would face a loss of one point on their driver's licenses.

Motorists could challenge the charge if they could prove the call didn't contribute to the accident.

Oliver said the teen-driving measure is a step toward safer roadways.

"I think the privilege we give teenagers to drive should be narrow given the inherent dangerousness of beginning drivers," Oliver told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Using a cell phone for even experienced drivers causes distractions. We should attempt to eliminate those distractions for teenagers."

Currently, about 10 states forbid young drivers to use phones while behind the wheel.

Only Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have bans on all drivers from using hand-held phones. In 2008, California is slated to implement its own rule that will prohibit all drivers from talking on hand-held phones while driving.

The Georgia teen cell phone bill - HB4 - and the distracted driving bill - HB5 - will be considered once the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 8.