A bill that would increase fines for distracted driving got a skeptical reception from some Georgia lawmakers.
House Bill 113 would raise fines for drivers who handle their cellphones or other electronic devices while driving. The current fine is $50. Under the bill, it could be as high as $100. Fines for subsequent offenses also would increase.
At a hearing before the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, supporters said Georgia motorists have had two years to get accustomed to the state’s ban on handling phones while driving. They say stiffer fines are needed because many people are ignoring the law.
Some lawmakers questioned whether raising fines is the best approach. They wondered whether additional educational efforts or other methods make more sense.
HB 113 would be the first update to the Hands-Free Georgia Act, which prohibited motorists from handling their phones while driving beginning in 2018. Under the law, motorists can use such devices if they use hands-free technology. But supporting a device with any part of their body is illegal.
The Georgia State Patrol wrote nearly 25,000 distracted driving citations in the first year after the law took effect. Early evidence suggested the new law has had an impact — Georgia traffic fatalities fell 2.2% to 1,515 in 2018 and an additional 4% last year.
But anyone driving on metro Atlanta highways can still see plenty of drivers with their eyes glued to their phones instead of the road.
Under the bill, the fine for a first offense would be $50 to $100, at a judge’s discretion. The fine for a second offense would range from $100 to $200, and a third offense would cost $150 to $300.
The bill also would raise fines for distracted driving offenses within school and construction zones.
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