How do police enforce laws against texting while driving?

Published: Aug. 6, 2010 at 2:58 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 7, 2010 at 2:00 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

By Don Logana - bio | email

POOLER, GA (WTOC) - Are you still texting and driving?

As of July 1, it has been against the law in Georgia. However, police are having a hard time enforcing the law.

Pooler police officer George Tyson is on the hunt for texting and driving offenders.

After two hours, Tyson had written zero tickets. It was not for a lack of trying from Tyson.

Many feel the new laws are a good idea and will save lives. For law enforcement, catching drivers texting or even teens using their cell-phones, is proving to be harder than it may seem.

"See both hands on steering wheel there," Tyson said, as he patrolled Highway 80 in Pooler. "I'm looking for the hands on the steering wheel. See if I can see a cell phone or they are punches keys on a key pad."

In four years on the Pooler Police force, texting while driving isn't something Tyson has seen,  considering, he's in a marked car.

"I've never seen someone texting while driving. I've had one person tell me they were texting while driving," he said. "Unless you are standing way up here, it is hard to see someone doing this on a cell phone."

So, enforcement of the new law is tough, even when it may look like someone is breaking the law.

"She's looking down, she's reduced her speed, but unless I see a cell phone, I don't have enough probable cause to stop her," he said.

Tyson didn't stop that driver, but he did, after almost an hour, find a driver who was even more obvious.

Or was she?

"This lady in the Mustang was holding something about here and looking down at it so we want to see if it was a cell phone," he said.

He put on his lights. "She hasn't even paid attention to me yet," Tyson said.

Then, pulled her over.

"The reason I am stopping you is because when you passed me you were on that cell phone," he told the driver. She stated, it was a GPS system on her phone. "You have GPS? Ok. Were you aware of the new texting and driving law?"

She told him she wasn't texting.

"Ok. Do me a favor and be careful today," Tyson said. "She says it was a GPS and she showed it to me." Using GPS is not against the law, even if it is on the cellphone.

"Still on the hunt," he said.

He also patrolled near traffic lights. "As long as that vehicle is in operation, it is illegal to text and drive," Tyson said.

Even his favorite spots to catch speeders turned up no texting violations, at least, none he could see.

"You have to catch them when they are doing it. If they sit there and tell you there were texting and driving, you didn't see it as a law enforcement officer," Tyson said.

Since the new laws went into effect July 1, only one person in Pooler has received a ticket for texting and driving. Tyson was the one who wrote it up, and the person was pulled over for a DUI and admitted to texting and driving.

After the entire day spent on the traffic beat, Tyson said he did not have a single texting and driving violation.

After one month in books as a law, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police said they have had no texting and driving tickets issued either.

Copyright 2010 WTOC. All rights reserved.