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Bill aims to change teen drivers’ habits

February 2, 2019

Legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Rome, would ban the use of cellphones by teen drivers.

A distracted driving law that went into effect last year prohibits all motorists from using electronic devices behind the wheel unless they’re hands-free. Lumsden said the exception shouldn’t apply to anyone under the age of 18.

“When the original legislation came through, that was part of the consideration,” he said. “But in trying to get it through the process, the provision was not included.”

The sponsor, Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, is trying again with House Bill 113 and Lumsden is again on board to rally the votes.

The retired Georgia State Patrol trooper who owns an insurance agency lost a daughter to a drunk driver. In his talks around the state last year, he spoke of how drinking and driving didn’t carry a stigma until there was a targeted campaign pointing up the dangers. That’s what he hopes to do with a ban on texting and other electronic activities.

“We’re trying to change the culture,” Lumsden said. “I think if young drivers start out with that expectation, you help change the culture going forward.”

Under HB 113, drivers under 18 caught using an electronic device would face a fine of $150. There are exceptions to allow reporting of a wreck, medical emergency, crime or road condition “which causes an immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard.”

The bill was dropped Wednesday but has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Lumsden also submitted HB 65, which has been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee. The measure would allow governments to use special purpose, local option sales tax revenue to fund payments to a software provider.

SPLOST money is currently restricted to capital projects, but Lumsden said cloud-based services are a new reality.

“Laws are slow to catch up, but technology has brought the opportunity to do things in a different way that may be more cost-effective,” he said.

The payments could be included as a capital outlay in a SPLOST package as long as the contract would end before the collection period expires.

“All subject to the will of the voters,” Lumsden added.

The measure is co-sponsored by Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Trey Kelley, a Republican from neighboring Cedartown and the House Majority Whip, also has signed on.