As has been reported locally, the city of Marietta, Georgia — where I work and where we routinely drive — adopted a new “hands-free” driving law back on 14 February that goes into effect on 1 April. The idea is by imposing a $150 fine on motorists who are operating vehicles with a telephone device in their hand, fewer accidents will occur. As a cyclist and motorcyclist whose life depends on attentive motorists, I like the prohibition.
However, that said, I’m dubious as to how effectively it will be enforced. I also found it amusing that, as usual, the city of Marietta has already offered an exception for first responders and public utility employees; really? Given all of the clutter and devices that now fill your average $50K – $70K police sedan or SUV, I suspect a police officer may rank as one of the most distracted drivers on the road. Motorists who pull off the road to use their phone are also free-and-clear of the $150 fine as are motorists who are using a phone to report an emergency; think about that one for a minute. “Yes officer, I just ran over a cyclist about two blocks back, you might want to go and see if he’s OK because I’ve got to get an appointment and just didn’t have time to stop and check myself.”
Anyway, yes… I’m cynical when it comes to what sound like good laws that won’t be enforced with any consistency or proactively, aside from a few high-profile ticket-writing festivals that will be held on 1 April at busy intersections: it will be like shooting fish in a barrel! Instead, it will be like so many other laws that are on the books and invoked only after an accident has occurred, e.g., Georgia’s Better Biking Bill which sort of makes it illegal to pass within 3′ of a cyclist when overtaking said cyclists traveling in the same direction. Given how often we’re “buzzed” by cars well within that 3 foot no-go zone I’d say it’s fair to suggest most motorists are completely unaware of this law. About the only time they’d be made aware is after an accident where prima facia evidence would allow the responding officer to cite the driver for passing too closely.
Anyway, that’s been my experience with laws like these so perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised and see evidence to the contrary of my expectations.