Gov. Deal to sign distracted driving bill into law Wednesday in Statesboro

Gov. Deal to sign distracted driving bill into law Wednesday in Statesboro
(Source: WTOC)

STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will sign several bills into law on Wednesday, including the much-anticipated hands-free driving bill.

The distracted driving legislation prevents motorists from holding cellphones while behind the wheel. However, there are other options that are acceptable for "hands-free." Those include using a speaker phone, Bluetooth and wireless earbuds. Drivers can even use Siri, Alexa or Cortana to tell them who to call while driving.

The first fine will be up to $50, the second jumps to $100. Three fines or more will be $150. First-time offenders can get the fee waived by buying a Bluetooth device and providing a proof of purchase.

More than a dozen other states have passed similar laws, with most reporting fewer traffic deaths.

Craig and Kathy Clark hope the same thing happens when the bill is passed here. Their daughter, Emily, was one of five Georgia Southern nursing students killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into several vehicles on Interstate 16 in April 2015. The driver of the truck admitted to using his mobile phone to text prior to the crash but denied using it when the crash occurred. He was eventually sentenced to five years in prison as part of a plea deal.

The Clark's say they hope this new law will help prevent this kind of loss for another family.

"We don't want anybody else to have to sit here when it's something that can be so easily prevented. You know, until we get people to put their phones down and pay attention when they drive, we're going to continue to see these kind of fatalities and accidents happen," Craig Clark, daughter killed in crash.

Governor Deal is expected to sign that bill and several other bills, on Wednesday, May 2 at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport. This is all part of the 2019 budget and Forestland Protection Acts.

The Georgia State Patrol and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety plan a 90-day grace period for drivers beginning in July, during which drivers will be given warnings while a public information campaign advertises the changes. The law will take effect on July 1.

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