Hands-free law good thing

It’s true confession time. Try not to be shocked, but here it is: I may have, hypothetically, sneaked a peek at a text while I’m driving. And it’s possible there’s been a time – or maybe two – where I’ve even tried to type in a quick answer while barreling down state Route 365 at 65 mph.

But even though I’ve been an “offender,” I’m thankful for the new hands-free driving law, which will be enforced beginning July 1. Enforced to the tune of a $300-$450 fine for a first offense, not to mention three points added to your driver’s license.

By passing the law, Georgia has become one of 16 states to ban the use of hand-held devices while driving. That means a driver can’t “physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body,” a cellphone, and that includes while they are stopped at traffic lights and stop signs. However, drivers may use Bluetooth devices to make or receive calls and texts, or for navigation.

I’ve never been keen on too many laws. I’ve long considered myself a sort-of libertarian, since I knew such a thing existed. Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark has said about his party, “We are the only political party that stands for your right to pursue happiness in any way you choose as long as you don’t hurt anyone else and as long as you don’t take their stuff.”

That’s how I feel about things. Live and let live. But that doesn’t apply to putting other people in danger.

We’ve all seen it. We’re driving down the road, and the car ahead of us makes a little swerve or suddenly slows down. We pass them. Yep, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on the phone, sending a text or dialing a call. And then there’s the woman I passed yesterday. One of her hands was holding the phone to her ear, while her other hand gestured as she talked. I’m not sure how she was steering her car.

A lot of people overestimate their own skills, and they think they are great at multitasking. And maybe they are. But when that multitasking involves a two-ton vehicle that could easily be a deadly weapon, maybe the car isn’t the place for it. It’s all OK, until suddenly it isn’t, and then there’s no going back.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, for nine years, through 2014, roadway fatalities declined. Deaths from car accidents were actually going down. But in the past three years, they are up 32 percent. Of the 1,549 people who died in car accidents in 2017, 70 percent of deaths were due to unsafe driving behaviors, including distractions, impairment or driving too fast for conditions.

I don’t like overly restrictive laws, but people wouldn’t stop putting other people at risk, so it had to be done. Even someone like me, who believes in fewer laws and more personal freedoms, can see that’s probably a good idea. I guess time, and statistics, will tell if it really has any effect.

And for me anyway, the law seems almost liberating. I’ll be free from always being on call and available. “So sorry I couldn’t read your text,” I can say. “I was driving.”

And that’s a freedom I could get used to.

This article provided by NewsEdge.