It’s something nearly everyone does.
A quick glance at your phone as the screen lights up next to you in the car, a longer look when you pull up to a stop sign or red light.
Those short glances then turn into longer ones, which become honking cars and frustrated drivers. Or maybe, that peep turns into a lengthier gaze, resulting in a fender-bender, or worse.
Recently, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement entities across the state have worked to emphasize the dangers of distracted driving as part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, a distracted driving awareness movement that included a video competition in September.
The competition — open to Georgia first responding agencies — required each organization to create a video bringing awareness to the issue. Forsyth County’s featured Dale Earnhardt Jr., a NASCAR driver.
By getting the most retweets, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office video won the competition for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, which received an additional $15,000 – each participating team was awarded $5,000 for joining – that will go to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes, an organization established in 1960 “to give our state’s most at-risk children the love, safety and stability needed to become mature, successful adults.”
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office video received 441 retweets and 225 likes on Twitter, with the Georgia Police Chiefs Association coming in second with 200 retweets. The Georgia Fire Chiefs Association’s video received 64 retweets.
“We know distracted driving is often related to accidents,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman. “In the last three months, deputies have made over 200 traffic stops for distracted driving. Cell phone distraction has reached epidemic levels and it is incumbent on the sheriff’s office and our partners to both educate drivers and, if necessary, hold them accountable.”
The video, which was first posted online Sept. 8, showed footage from various traffic stops the sheriff’s office conducted for distracted driving.
One particular segment shows a truck swerving into the median lane and a turning lane, both of which were empty at the time.
When the deputy asks the driver “what’s going on,” the driver said he was looking at football scores on his phone.
Freeman said just because the video competition is over, the campaign to stop distracted driving is not, and deputies will continue to conduct various traffic control and safety checks throughout the county.
“Help FCSO keep Forsyth Safe, have patience, put your phone down and drive courteously,” Freeman said. “Lives literally depend on you.”
To view the video, visit: twitter.com/ForsythCountySO.
Driving Laws Q&A
Courtesy of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office
Q: Can I drive and make phone calls while holding my phone?
A: There is no handheld cell phone prohibition for drivers to receive and to make cell phone calls. Yes you can make calls, but please use caution and we encourage hands free usage. It is still a distraction but we hope a lesser one.
Q: What are the restrictions for young drivers?
A: Novice drivers in Georgia - drivers younger than 18 – are prohibited from all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) while driving.
Q: Can I text or use my phone (other than calls) if I am completely stopped at an intersection or red light?
A: Nope, you can’t – only if stopped and properly parked in a parking area. FCSO will enforce illegal use at the intersections.
Q: What is restricted by the law?
A: The law prohibits drivers from using a cell phone for or as a; text messaging device, personal digital assistant, computer or similar wireless device to write, send, or read text data while driving. The ban applies to text messages, instant messages, email, and Internet data (Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat). All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving.
Q: Can I take photos while driving?
A: No, you cannot take photos or videos, even if it relates to selfies, aspiring music videos, personal rants, political social media speeches or a Facebook live post of what you are having for lunch.
Q: What about first responders, police, fire, ems or exemptions for citizen emergencies?
A: The law creates exceptions for emergency first responder personnel while on duty, drivers responding to or reporting emergencies, and drivers who are fully parked. These exemptions do not in any way relieve ANY driver of their duty to operate a vehicle safely.
Q: What about GPS/Navigation use?
A: The use of a cell device as a GPS/Navigation tool will generally be deemed acceptable if the user is not actively handling the device while operating a motor vehicle and the device is receiving automated directions that do not require interaction by the driver.
Q: What about bus drivers
A: Bus drivers are prohibited from all handheld and hands-free cell phone use while driving unless reporting an emergency.
Q: What are the penalties?
A: Offenders are subject to a fine of up to $150.
Q: Can I get stopped just for texting?
A: Georgia’s cell
phone and texting laws are considered “primary” laws. A primary law means that
a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Deputy can pull you over for the offense
without having to witness some other violation.