With grace period over, DWT'ers find habit tough to kick

One month into Georgia's texting-while-driving ban, many nimble-fingered drivers are facing the possibility they might just have a problem.

Their ears are primed for text message alerts. Their eyes widen when their devices light up. Their phalanges fiddle with their phone's vibrations.

Kelly Ann Ryder, a 19-year-old driver from Bremen, has tried to quit cold turkey, turning her iPhone to silent, "no vibrating or anything ... because when I hear it, I get this sensation," she says.

But what really breaks Ryder into a sweat this weekend is just thinking about the fines the Georgia State Patrol is prepared to issue starting Sunday. After a one-month grace period, police across the state will begin enforcing the new law banning texting while driving. Ryder, a junior at University of Georgia, vowed before the law went into effect July 1, she'd only text when stopped or if no one else was on the road.

"So if I do anything stupid, I'm only hurting myself," she says.

Jenny Meyers is still coming to terms with her addiction. The 33-year-old attorney knows she is unnaturally attached to her phone. She commutes from Canton to Cobb and Cherokee Counties with her Blackberry (literally) in hand, she says. To her, instant messaging her office while driving is as natural as braking. And, yes, she often drives with her knees.

Meyers believes the law is appropriate for young drivers, but suggests it only be enforced with adults who have a record of accidents-while-texting. (She, for the record, says she has a clean driving history.)

She's trying her best to be a law-abiding Georgia driver, but knows just what she'll do if stopped for an alleged DWT violation.

"If a cop pulls me over and says ‘You’ve been texting,' how can they prove it?" Meyers asks. "They are not taking my phone without a warrant."

That may not stop a trooper from issuing a $150 citation (also worth one point on the driver's record)  to a motorist suspected of violating the law. It's up to the officer's discretion, says GSP trooper Larry Schnall.

Brittany Haugabook recently hit rock bottom. Specifically, she hit the car in front of her. She was text-driving while navigating through a rainstorm.

"My first thought ‘Oh my God. I have this phone, I’m going to jail,'" recalls the 20-year-old from Stone Mountain.

The cars had little damage, but Haugabook says she was scared sober. She hasn't texted, while driving, since.

Staff writer Rhonda Cook contributed to this article.