In a tied vote Monday evening, broken by Mayor Max Bacon, Smyrna became the first city in Georgia to institute a hands-free ordinance for drivers. According to the Cobb County Courier, Councilor Derek Norton sponsored and lobbied for the measure. Voting “yes” with Councilor Norton were Corky Welch and Doug Stoner, while Susan Wilson, Andrea Blustein, and Maryline Blackburn voted “no”. Only one member, Ron Fennel, abstained citing his work with a group that backs similar issues.
“One community can’t solve this,” said Bluestein ahead of her ‘no’ vote.” We need to put pressure on the state to do its job.”
The measure would have gone into effect in January, but is being held until April to see if the Georgia Legislature takes a stronger statewide approach during the 2018 legislative session. Councilor Norton did state his doubt that the legislature would take a hard stance on the issue during an election year. While Georgia already has a no texting and driving law, Law Enforcement says it hard to enforce. Nevertheless, Police Chief David Lee was one of the speakers in favor of the new ordinance. Smyrna Officers will only be writing warnings for the first 45 days the ordinance is in effect and points will not go on the driver’s license.
According to the ordinance, which can be read in full here, drivers are allowed “one-touch” which allows for the phone to be answered and trigger the blue-tooth device in use. The maximum fine will be $150, furthering Councilor Norton’s argument that this ordinance is a life-saving measure and not a revenue generator for the city.
“Georgia’s traffic fatalities rate is higher now than it was before the 2010 law that bans texting while driving. In 2009, Georgia had 1,292 traffic fatalities. In 2016, Georgia had 1,561 traffic fatalities.”
10 speakers were recognized during the Monday’s meeting, both for and against the measure.