Police Chief says most drivers complying with new “hands free” law

By Linton Johnson linton@wsgcradio.com

Georgia’s new “hands free” law aimed at reducing distracted driving has been in effect since July 1. According to Elberton Police Chief Mark Welsh, through Monday, officers had issued a total of 17 citations on city roadways under the new law, which prohibits drivers from holding a cellphone or texting while behind the wheel.

“That’s close to two citations a day,” Welsh said. “In speaking with the officers, they’ve said 90 percent of the people they’ve been stopping are saying, ‘Yeah, I know, I just got caught’ and owning up to it and accepting responsibility for it. I don’t know how many verbal warnings have been given, because we don’t document that.”
The chief said from his personal observation, the vast majority of drivers are complying with the law.
“I think the educational program we did was very good at the state level and also at the local level,” Welsh said. “If you didn’t know about the law, that’s your own fault. You must be living in a box somewhere. Everybody’s complying. We’ve got a few that have strayed, but other than that, we’re good.”
Elberton Police will release a detailed report on distracted driving during the law’s first month at the end of July, the chief said.
“I’m curious to see if our accidents are going to be reduced,” he said. “I think that’s a big cause of a lot of it. It’s why your insurance rates are going up and why our fatalities and accident rates have gone up dramatically over the past years. Hopefully this will curtail that.”

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