Ga. lawmaker wants new cellphone restrictions for drivers

Georgia motorists would only be permitted to chat on their cellphones while driving if they’re linked to a hands-free device under a new legislative proposal.

The measure, House Bill 10, is the latest attempt to crack down on distracted driving in Georgia. State lawmakers banned texting and driving in 2010, but efforts to restrict phone calls have hit roadblocks.

The latest push, filed by Democratic state Rep. Rahn Mayo, would make it a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $150 for driving and talking without a hands-free device.

It carves out exceptions for first responders, commercial truck drivers and those reporting accidents or crimes. And it would allow drivers to use Bluetooth technology, headphones and speakers in their devices to continue talking behind the wheel.

“With the increased use in cellphones, wireless technology and social media, we’re going to have a lot more drivers holding phones to their ears,” said Mayo. “People are spending countless hours on the road, and distracted driving is endangering lives.”

Talking on a hand-held cellphone is banned in 14 states and restricted in four others, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which tracks driving trends. Mayo said his friends in California, for instance, are by now conditioned to put down their phones when they get in the car.

The legislation faces a tough road ahead. Mayo filed a similar proposal in 2011 that gained little traction, and Democrats face daunting challenges pushing legislation through the Republican-controlled statehouse.

The measure is among about a dozen other proposals filed in recent weeks that range from a push to legalize marijuana use in Georgia to a pitch to allow betting on horse racing.

Among the other latest filings is House Bill 12, which would make it a state crime for anyone to falsely claim they were a military veteran or they were a recipient of a military decoration.

Those convicted of the violation would face a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in prison under the legislation filed by Republican state Rep. Terry Rogers of Clarkesville.

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