As a cyclist, Mike Masters would prefer those sharing the road with him in their cars focus their full attention on driving.
The new state law that went into effect July 1 is designed to encourage drivers to do just that. Senate Bill 360 prohibits drivers from sending or reading text messages or electronic mail while driving. Another law that went into effect the same day, House Bill 23, prohibits drivers younger than 18 from using wireless communication devices while driving.
“I definitely am concerned because I spend a lot of my time on the road cycling,” said Masters, a Decatur resident. “[Texting is] as bad as drinking and driving as far as I’m concerned.”
The penalty for violating either of the new laws is a $150 fine and one point added to your license.
DeKalb County Police spokesman Jason Gagnon said the department is working on instituting a tracking method to determine the effect of the law. However, the department’s main focus last week was on the Fourth of July celebrations.
“With the holiday, we were focused on dealing with drunk driving and DUI enforcement mainly as opposed to texting,” Gagnon said.
Atlanta area drivers were made aware of the new texting law with announcements on the electronic message boards on Highway 78 and the major interstates. Though there has been concern that the new law may be difficult to enforce, Gagnon is optimistic about the effect it will have on the community.
“It gives us another tool to hopefully be able to deter texting,” Gagnon said. “It can cause serious accidents.”
The new law going into effect is enough for Gwinnett County resident Herman McIntosh to stop texting and driving.
“I’ve done it before, but not any more,” said McIntosh, who discussed the law while eating lunch recently at North DeKalb Mall. “Also, my son lets me know when I’m doing it and that I shouldn’t be.”
McIntosh likes the law but wonders how enforceable it is.
“It’s going to be hard to prove unless you see the person on the phone,” McIntosh said. “How can you prove someone was texting if they don’t have the phone when they’re pulled over. I’m not going to relinquish my phone to you.”
Mignon Floyd of Decatur doesn’t text and drive but she is hopeful the new law will curb the desire for those who do.
“I think it’s great because a lot of people text and drive,” she said. “I see people swerving all over the road and not paying attention. It’s a good thing it was signed into law.”
When he’s in his car and not bicycling, Masters also is concerned about those text and drive.
“I know how dangerous it can be and I definitely think [the law] is a good idea,” he said.