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Texting measure signed into law
Going to save lives, Murphy says of bill
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Forsyth County News
Jack Murphy said he has often seen motorists driving erratically, cell phone pressed against the steering wheel, thumbs furiously punching keys.

Concerned, the District 27 state Senator from Cumming authored a bill to outlaw texting while driving in the state. Last week, that bill became law.

“It’s going to save lives in Georgia,” Murphy said.

The bill for adults, signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, bans all text communication while driving. The measure includes e-mails, text messages and Internet use.

Perdue also signed a House bill that bans all cell phone use for drivers younger than 18.

Under the laws, which will take effect July 1, a violation can lead to a $150 fine and one point on a violator’s driver’s license.

The law for adults may be tweaked when the state legislature resumes next year, Murphy said, since Perdue agreed to sign it with assurances the language about reading would be more clearly defined.

Murphy was pleased that the governor decided to enact the law.

“We worked hard on this bill and I think it’s one of the most important laws that we’ve passed in Georgia as far as public safety is concerned,” said Murphy, who is also the chairman of the Senate’s public safety committee.

Georgia is one of 28 states that have passed a law banning texting while driving, something that has been drawn into the spotlight as wrecks have increased.

The Georgia texting ban is titled the Caleb Sorohan Act, named for an 18-year-old North Georgia College & State University student who died in a wreck while texting.

Distracted drivers have been at fault in several Forsyth County incidents as well, Sheriff Ted Paxton said.

He recalled an accident in late 2009 when a driver was killed after hitting a school bus head on.

It was later determined that he appeared to have been texting, he said.

“When everybody’s driving, that is their No. 1 concern,” Paxton said. “That is what they need to focus on and not all the other distractions that they can allow inside that vehicle.”

While he agreed that drivers should put down their phones, Paxton said he could see some challenges in enforcing the laws, such as determining whether someone is texting or the age of a driver on a cell phone.

He said the specifics of enforcement will be guided by the state statute. Deputies will undergoing training this month.

Acknowledging the enforcement challenges, Murphy said the intent of the law isn’t to punish people.

“The point of the law is that a lot of people ... will stop texting just because it is law,” he said. “That’s the important part.”