Georgia lawmakers look at making laws tougher on phones and driv - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Georgia lawmakers look at making laws tougher on phones and driving

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Every year, thousands of Americans die because of distracted driving. Many—because they couldn't put down their cell phones. A Savannah High School teacher is working with state leaders to make Georgia's law stricter.

Robert Kicklighter said he wants Georgia to become a hands-free state. That means you could only use your phone with Bluetooth. He also wants to give law enforcers more tools to combat distracted driving.

Every day, thousands of cars hit the roads around Georgia. As smart phones become more and more prevalent, an alarming number of drivers are taking their eyes off the road and putting them on the phone.

"People really don't pay attention to the law, and they use their cell phones. They don't realize what they're doing is distracted driving or improper use of their cell phone," said SCMPD Lt. Anthony Gallo.

Police said that distraction can be just as deadly as driving drunk.

"You're not paying attention to the roadway; you're looking elsewhere, or your attention is diverted somewhere else. Then, when something happens, you're slow to react to it because you weren't paying attention,” said Gallo.

Georgia law differs from some states in that you can still talk on the phone if you're over 18. But could that change?

That's where Robert Kicklighter comes in. He spent more than 20 years as a law enforcement officer.

"I've seen numerous fatalities and a lot of these are from distracted driving,” said Kicklighter.

These days, he's Savannah High School's law academy director and a Driver's Ed teacher in Glynn County. That job got him connected with his state representative, Jeff Jones. They agreed the law needed changing.

"It's not preventable, but our hope is to reduce the number of fatalities across the state. The most important thing to me also is to provide law enforcement the tools that they need to be able to do their jobs,” said Kicklighter.

He said that includes giving officers the ability to look for distracted drivers in unmarked cars. Right now, primary traffic patrol cars have to be marked.

"Not for speed enforcement, not for revenue, but to save lives, because they're going to see a lot more things out there on the roads when they're in unmarked vehicles,” said Kicklighter.

These potential changes are still far from becoming law. Kicklighter's hope is that the changes they do make though lead to fewer deaths on Georgia's roads.

Kicklighter and that committee will meet Monday at the state capital. The representative in charge said several people who can offer input and a possible solution to this “serious, life-threatening issue” will be in attendance.

In Georgia, there is not a hand -held ban. There is, however, an all cell phone ban for school bus drivers and new drivers. There is also a text-messaging ban for all drivers.

Like Georgia, South Carolina does not have a hand- held ban, but does have a text messaging ban. The big, and slightly disturbing, difference is that there is not a cell phone ban for bus drivers or new drivers.

You can learn more about your state's laws here.

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