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Lawmakers consider outlawing texting while driving
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House Bill 938:
ATLANTA - Two Georgia lawmakers are proposing a ban on texting behind the wheel that could make the practice illegal for all drivers.

State Republicans Allen Peake and Amos Amerson on Tuesday introduced bills in the Georgia House that would prohibit the practice and come with a fine and driver's license penalties.

"I used to text like crazy while driving," said Peake, who added that he has since broken the habit. "I had no idea what was going on around me, and that's scary. I knew I needed to make some changes before I hurt myself or someone else."

If the law passes, it would go into effect July 1. Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Virginia and Washington are among the other states that ban text messages for all drivers. Nine states ban text messaging for teen drivers.

Peake says the bill is a step in the right direction for Georgia. He stopped short of a total ban on cell phone use and says the legislation addresses the "more dangerous" practice of texting.

"Right now, we're dealing with what we know is a major problem," Peake said, citing a proliferation of text messages in recent years and a growth in texting by adults.

AAA spokesman Kevin Bakewell, whose region includes Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Puerto Rico said texting while driving legislation is one of the auto club's top priorities this year. While some research has been conducted on the issue - particularly in California, where a study has shown that a ban in the state reduced texting while driving by 70 percent - he acknowledged that empirical evidence linking texting to vehicle crashes is scarce.

Peake said the law may also be difficult to enforce, though he added that he hoped having a law on the books that could cost drivers who get caught at least a $50 fine and two penalty points on their driver's licenses would be a deterrent.

Georgia Public Safety Commissioner Bill Hitchens said he often sees drivers texting at stop signs but as with speeding, offenders could be hard to catch.

"You can ride up and down the interstate at 100 miles per hour as long as nobody sees you," Hitchens said. "So as far as enforcement, it's just whether you see them or not."

Hitchens said Tuesday that he has not yet reviewed the legislation, but he is in favor of stopping people from texting while driving and would also support more education on the dangerous practice, which he said he has stopped doing.

A bill aimed just at teen drivers and also focused on talking on a cell phone while driving failed to pass last year.

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