Why Do Cell Phone Driving Restrictions and Bans Have Limited Effectiveness?
Whether cell phone driving restrictions and bans actually reduce the number of districted driving related accidents is a question that is widely debated. However, one reason why these efforts seem to have limited effectiveness may be related to challenges with enforcing distracted driving laws. While radar can detect a speeding driver or police may observe an alcohol impaired driver drifting into an adjacent lane, cell phone use may not be as easy to recognize unless the driver makes a serious driving error in the officer's presence or the driver is involved in a collision. Many cell phone users who do a significant amount of text messaging often operate their phone out of sight of passing cars.
Even if the officer does pull over a driver that is violating a cell phone ban, there may be no way to confirm that the phone was being used to talk or text without a subsequent subpoena of cell phone records. While mobile phones may save call logs and text messages, a driver can quickly clear these logs. The bottom line is that without a substantial risk of detection, drivers may conclude that the convenience of using a cell phone outweighs the potential risk of a traffic citation.
The relatively mild consequences associated with violation of Georgia's texting and driving ban may also pose a potential explanation as to why bans have fallen short of the goal of making roads safer. DUI is a misdemeanor (or felony under some circumstances) so it results in a criminal record, potential incarceration in county jail or state prison and costs that typically amount to thousands of dollars. By comparison, the penalty for text messaging while driving in Georgia is a paltry $150 fine and a single point on one's driving record. The low risk of receiving a citation combined with the relatively trivial penalties undercut the deterrent impact of laws that ban or restrict cell phone usage.
The challenges in enforcing the law have been confirmed by Georgia law enforcement officials. An officer with the Georgia State Patrol speaking to a reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) suggested that the enforcement problem might be getting worse. "We're having the same obstacles we've had since the law came into effect. They're looking for us now because it's against the law, and they don't do it while we're in a car sitting next to them." The AJC article reported that only eleven citations per month have been issued for texting and driving throughout the entire state since the texting ban went into effect.
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