Smyrna leaders look to adopt hands-free driving ordinance

- Leaders in one Cobb County city plan to be the first in the state to pass a hands-free driving ordinance

Smyrna Mayor Pro Tem Derek Norton drafted the code, which would make it illegal for anyone to even touch a cell phone, GPS or other electronic devices while behind the wheel inside the city limits.  

"It's a public safety issue and it's also a traffic flow standpoint issue," explained Norton.  "How many times have you been behind somebody at a red light, it turns green and they don't go for 10 or 15 seconds because they were texting and not looking up?"  

Norton said the ordinance is still a work in progress, but the fine would probably be $150 for the first offense and include some sort of "education" component for after subsequent violations.

The state of Georgia already has a distracting driving law on the books that ban texting while driving, however, law enforcement agencies agree that can be extremely difficult to enforce.

"With hands-free, it's cut and dry.  If they see you behind the wheel with a phone in your hand, then you can get a ticket," said Norton.

The ordinance does provide exceptions for people making emergency calls and for first responders making calls in the course of their duties.  

Norton said he has gotten mostly positive feedback about the idea.  

"I'm cheap.  I'm not paying $150 to check Instagram," said Tevin Jordan, who supports the hands-free ordinance plan.  

State lawmakers have also started to look at hands-free legislation. The House of Representatives formed a study committee to look at the issues of distracting driving ahead of the 2018 session.

Norton, however, said he does not want to put his plan on hold.  

"Why wait in Smyrna?  I'd hate for some tragic accident to happen where we could've done something to prevent it related to distracted driving and we didn't do it," he said.

The city council is scheduled to vote on the hands-free ordinance on November 20 and it will likely go into effect January 1, 2018.

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