A distracted driver sting last month by the Columbus Police Department is scheduled to play out in court on Thursday as those who have not paid their fines or fees appear before a Recorder’s Court judge.
On June 1, a special detail from the police department’s Motor Squad set up along Bradley Park Drive and issued 96 citations, most for distracted driving and no seat belts in just two and a half hours.
Police officers posing as a roadside work crew would spot the violations, radio motorcycle officers who then pulled over motorists and issued the citations.
Thursday during the 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Recorder’s Court session the bulk of those cited are scheduled to appear. As of 2 p.m. Monday, 17 people had paid their fines and one has paid a bond to move the case into State Court, a court official. Those who were cited have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to pay the $200.63 fine and court costs or they must appear in court or face contempt charges.
About 10 to 12 officers involved in the operation will appear in court to testify Thursday, Lt. Clyde Dent said.
The police department has not held a similar distracted driver sting because those who directed it want to see the outcome of the cases they made on June 1, he said.
Most of the cases were based on Georgia Code: 40-6-241, which outlines the restrictions on driver’s using electronic devices while operating a vehicle. One of the violations that officers were specifically looking for was a driver manipulating a device while driving. It is not illegal in Georgia to talk on a phone while driving.
According to the law: No person shall operate a commercial motor vehicle on any Georgia public road or highway while:
▪ Holding a wireless telecommunications device to conduct a voice communication;
▪ Using more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or
▪ Reaching for a wireless telecommunications device in such a manner that requires the driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position properly restrained by a safety belt.
“You never know how a judge will perceive a case,” Dent said. “And this is not something that we have done a lot. So, this will not be a normal, everyday case that a judge sees.”
The activities that constituted the distracted driving tickets on June 1 included texting, checking Facebook on mobile phones, entering data in phone GPS, reading a letter placed on the steering wheel while driving with the knees, applying makeup, and using a laptop, police said at the time of the sting.
The operation caused a social media storm as local residents reacted. Despite the uproar, distracted driving is a major problem on Columbus roadways, Maj. J.D. Hawk said.
“I can tell you right now we are still going to make distracted driving cases,” he said. “I know that what we did brought attention to distracted driving, but what affect it had, I don’t know. Those who are distracted drivers are putting others at risk.”