Chuck Williams

Columbus Police deadly serious about distracted driving crackdown

Two defendants discuss the "distracted driver" sting on Bradley Park drive

Two drivers who were cited during a Columbus Police Motor Squad operation along Bradley Park Drive say that were not distracted and were within the law. Maj. J.D. Hawk reminds drivers of the dangers of cell phone use while driving, and confirms th
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Two drivers who were cited during a Columbus Police Motor Squad operation along Bradley Park Drive say that were not distracted and were within the law. Maj. J.D. Hawk reminds drivers of the dangers of cell phone use while driving, and confirms th

Admit it, you are guilty. So am I.

Many of us use our electronic devices in violation of Georgia law while we are driving. We do it to the point that we don’t even know we are doing it.

We have all been there. You are on Interstate 185 heading north and a car is going slower than the flow of traffic in the left lane. Many times, when you go around that driver you will find they are talking on a cell phone, texting or scrolling. In other words, they are a distracted driver.

Someone is driving down Veterans Parkway and they begin to drift into another lane. Maybe they are drunk, but the odds are much higher they are distracted. And usually, the distraction is an electronic device.

We lecture our children about the dangers of texting and driving, then we pull out our own phone at a stop light or when we are rolling down the road.

Do as I say, child, not as I do.

It is what it is — dangerous. And Columbus Police officers have had enough of it. They can’t put an entire community on restriction, as a parent would if they caught a child texting and driving.

So they are giving tickets en masse, and one of the reasons is to raise awareness of the problem.

Over the last two months, Columbus Police have instituted a crackdown on distracted driving. They are looking for it in the most creative ways. On the morning of June 1 officers posed as a work crew along Bradley Park Drive and in two and a half hours they issued 96 citations for violations, many of those involving distracted driving.

They are getting people’s attention through $200.63 in fines and court costs, not to mention the spike in insurance costs.

Maj. J.D. Hawk on Thursday did not rule out more of these types of operations. He even suggested you could see officers posing as homeless panhandlers to nab unsuspecting motorists.

He may have been kidding, but no one is certain because police are enforcing the state’s distracted driving code by the letter of the law. If you want to know what is legal or illegal, I suggest you read Georgia Code: 40-6-241.

Thursday, the distracted driving tickets began to work their way through the courts. During the June 1 sting, police cited motorists for any manipulation they saw of an electronic device. The Recorder’s Court judges backed that up on Thursday.

Here is how the law is being enforced by police and backed by the courts in Columbus:

It is not illegal to talk on a cell phone while you are driving in Georgia, unless you are under age 18. But anything else you do with that phone while you are operating a motor vehicle opens you up to fines and court costs in Muscogee County.

Here is an example: You make a phone call while sitting in your car in your driveway. After you connect, you go out onto a public road. You’re fine. No violation there. But if someone calls you while you are driving and you answer that phone by swiping your finger across the device, you could get a ticket in Columbus.

It is also illegal to use your phone to text, check Facebook or Twitter, or anything else other than talk while you are stopped at a traffic light.

Hawk said that all patrol officers are on the lookout for distracted drivers. But it is clear that many of the tickets are being given by the Columbus PD Motor Squad, the officers who regularly work traffic fatalities. They see first hand the results of bad driving, drunk driving and distracted driving.

And they are not playing. You could say they are deadly serious.

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams

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