State lawmakers consider hands-free driving policy

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"Hands-free" was the buzzword of choice Monday at the first meeting of the House Study Committee on Distracted Driving.

Lawmakers heard testimony from the Georgia State Patrol, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety and others.

"The issue is really the enforcement--giving our law enforcement officials the tools that they need to make sure that people are driving safely," explained State Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, who is the chairman of the study committee. 

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, fatalities on Georgia roads have risen 33 percent in the last two years.  Many of those crashes, they said, can be attributed to driver error, including distracted driving.  It can be difficult, though, for officers to enforce the state's current texting and distracted driving laws.

"We are making cases under the current distracted driving law now, but I submit to you that they're not the number that you would see if you had a hands-free law," said GSP Capt. Derick Durden.

Mandi Sorohan lost her son Caleb to a texting and driving crash in 2009.  She also supports the passage of a hands-free law.

"As he was looking down to read a text message, he veered into the oncoming lane and there was an SUV pulling a horse trailer and he hit it head on.  He was killed instantly," said Sorohan.  "We need stronger laws. We don't want another family to go through what we've gone through.  It's [going to] be with us for the rest of our life."

The committee has four other meetings scheduled around the state over the next two months.

Carson said he is not sure if hands-free is the ultimate answer, but he hopes Georgians will contact their elected officials to weigh in on the issue.

"It's going to be up to what the citizens of Georgia really want to do and them talking to their state senators, to their state representatives, to the Governor's Office and so forth, and know that it is giving up a convenience for the benefit of public safety," said Rep. Carson.