Florida’s Seat Belt Law Enacted To Save Lives

Florida has a new law that goes into effect Tuesday of this week. Modeled after Georgia’s Seat Belt law which was enacted in 1996 and has saved thousands of lives, the law, according to the article below, is long overdue.

Beginning Tuesday, not wearing a seat belt can cost you about $100 under a new Florida law that changes enforcement of the state’s law. Officers now can stop people for not wearing a seat belt. Before, motorists could only be cited if they were stopped for another violationThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that Florida’s primary seat belt law will prevent roughly 1,700 serious auto accident injuries, 140 deaths and save about $408 million in associated costs yearly, Leeper said.

In 2007 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said seat belt usage in Georgia was at 89 percent.

Statistics for the state for 2007, the latest available from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, include:

– Of 1,972 people killed in crashes, 1,201, or 61 percent, of them were not wearing a seat belt.

– Florida’s seat belt usage rate is 81.7 percent, which ranks 31st out of the 50 states.

– Law enforcement officers in Florida issued 311,715 traffic citations for not wearing a seat belt as a secondary traffic offense.

The new measure carries a financial incentive passed by Congress in 2005. That program gives states a one-time federal grant to be spent on highway-related projects if the state adopts a primary enforcement law by June 30. Florida’s potential grant could be $35.5 million.

Some lawmakers had worried it would increase racial profiling. Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, was among the legislators who voted against the measure.

“I do have an issue with racial profiling not only of blacks but also of brown minorities, and I understand that seat belts save lives,” she said. “But I view this as a primary stop bill, not a primary seat belt law, so let’s call it what it really is.”

Georgia made it legal to pull over motorists solely for not wearing a seat belt effective July 1, 1996, according to Georgia Department of Public Safety spokesman Gordy Wright. It is a non-moving violation and carries a fine of $15.

Before it became a primary enforcement law, Georgia in 1995 had a fatal accident rate of 2.1 percent per 100 million miles traveled, Wright said, or about 1,600 fatalities. By 1999 that had dipped to 1.9 percent per 100 million miles, or about 1,500 fatalities.

“That was despite motor vehicle travel increasing about 5 percent a year,” Wright said. “There were more cars on the road and more drivers, but still the fatal accident rate declined.”

Article by Jessie-Lynne Kerr, Jacksonville. com

Georgia Traffic Laws

Florida Traffic Laws

Georgia Court Throws Out Georgia’s Left Turn Law

It should seem easy enough to write a law declaring it illegal to make a left-hand turn into the far right-hand lane on a multi-lane road.

But the Georgia Legislature so badly mangled the wording of the law the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday found it “unconstitutionally vague.”

A plain reading of the statute renders two “diametrically opposite interpretations,” Justice Carol Hunstein wrote. A person of “common intelligence” cannot determine with reasonable certainty that the law prohibits making a left-hand turn into the right lane of a multi-lane roadway, the ruling said.

Until the Legislature meets next year and fixes the law, police cannot longer hand out tickets to motorists who make the improper turn.

The court ruling was a legal victory for Todd Christopher McNair of Whitfield County. In 2007, he was arrested by Dalton police for DUI, obstruction of a police officer and making an improper left-hand turn. McNair should have turned into the left-hand lane, not the right-hand lane of the roadway, police said.

At trial, McNair was acquitted of DUI and obstruction but convicted of the improper turn. He was fined $500, given a year’s probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. He also was sentenced to four months in jail for a probation violation.

Benjamin Goldberg, a Whitfield County public defender, said when he first read the statute he couldn’t believe it — or comprehend it.

“It was jibberish,” Goldberg said. “It was like reading another language.”

The law starts out well enough, clearly instructing drivers to be in the far left-hand lane of the ongoing traffic before making a left turn.

But then the statute becomes indecipherable: “Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as such vehicle on the roadway being entered.”

Goldberg said even attorneys have a hard enough time interpreting some state laws. But this one, he said, was off the charts.

Article by Bill Rankin, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia Traffic Laws

Royston Georgia Got the Cart Before The Ordinance

The Royston Police Department has a golf cart but cannot legally use it except in about a quarter of the city, according to Police Chief Daniel Cleveland.

City Attorney Mike Green said Cleveland told him golf carts, including the police golf cart, were legal on city streets without an ordinance but could not cross state highways without one.

“Right now, as we confirmed before the meeting, according to Chief Cleveland, it’s legal to operate these carts on city streets without an ordinance, but you have to have an ordinance that allows them to cross a state highway.”

Green said the city finds itself in a dilemma without the ordinance. “Our city police department owns a golf cart that they use. They can operate it on city streets, but they can’t cross a state highway with it without the ordinance.” Green said the ordinance would not apply just to the police golf cart but to all citizens.

Golf carts will only be allowed to cross state highways at street crossings or intersections. Golf carts will not be allowed to ride on state highways, only cross them.

“You can, in effect, jaywalk with the cart,” said Green.

Councilman Keith Turman questioned the ability to enforce the code if cart drivers did not have a license. Turman was told anyone driving a cart on a city street or crossing a state highway would be required to hold a valid driver’s license.

“If this ordinance passes, who is going to be responsible for doing the inspections on these vehicles?” asked Turman.

“I guess it would be the city marshal,” said Green. “Any city police officer could stop and check at any time,” he added.

“What happens if a golf cart is in an accident when crossing the highway? Is the person permitted with a license and if they were at fault would they be responsible at that point?” asked Turman.

Turman then asked if the city was placing itself in any more liability by passing the ordinance.

“I don’t think it would give the city any more exposure,” said Green. “I think that’s more of a civil matter between the parties. I don’t think it exposes the city to any more liability.”

“This ordinance that we may put into place will affect people that have golf carts now. Some of them will no longer be able to drive their golf carts,” said Councilwoman Angie Pressley. “I say that, but I assume that because it says you have to have a valid driver’s license. Pressley said the city could require a license or an age limit, like over 18.”

Turman said if a license was not required the city could not expect cart operators to adhere to traffic laws. “We can’t hold them liable for traffic laws if they don’t have a driver’s license,” said Turman.

Councilman David Jordan asked if someone could be charged with DUI in a golf cart and was told they could. “You can be charged even on a horse,” said Pressley.

Jordan said he too was concerned about golf carts becoming involved in an accident. “They don’t have to have liability insurance and we [automobile drivers] do,” said Jordan.

Green said it was unclear how golf carts were legal on city streets but go-carts were not under state law.

“I’ll be happy to put something in the ordinance which requires minimum Georgia limits of liability insurance,” said Green.

While council members seemed to be in favor of the ordinance they asked Green to revise the current draft and return with an updated version next month.

Franklin County Citizen, Mark Berryman

Royston Georgia Traffic & Speeding Ticket Info

Fayette County Teens Wary Of Cel Phone Ban

Rep. Ramsey says law against using a cell while driving a matter of ‘safety vs. inconvenience’

A local legislator who wants to outlaw cellphone use by drivers under 18 took his case to that very age group Monday night in Peachtree City.

Matt Ramsey told the Youth Council Serving Fayette County that he also has had a bill drafted that would ban text messaging for drivers of all ages, and he is currently gauging whether there would be enough support from legislators to pass it this year. Ramsey said he is undecided about whether he will introduce that bill this year.

“Study after study shows text messaging in particular is incredibly dangerous,” Ramsey said. “The number of times you take your eyes off the road for text messaging is about eight times what it is when you’re using your cellphone just to talk. It’s incredibly dangerous.”

Eliminating cellphone use for drivers under 18 would limit the most common distraction for young drivers while they’re still learning to drive, Ramsey said. Recent studies have shown that 60 percent of all teens text while driving and 90 percent of teens talk on the phone while driving, Ramsey said.

Distractions, Ramsey said, are the number one cause of teenage auto crashes.

Ramsey’s proposal would forbid any cellphone use among drivers under 18, even if they use a hands-free device. Violators face a $175 fine and a one-point license deduction for a first offense and a $500 fine and a two-point reduction for additional offenses.

Also, any driver found at fault in a motor vehicle crash while using a cellphone would receive a mandatory 90-day license suspension.

During Monday’s give-and-take session at City Hall in Peachtree City, Ramsey also got feedback from the crowd.

One concern about the teen driver cellphone ban was the possibility of teen drivers hiding their cellphone use, perhaps exacerbating the danger.

Another concern was whether the law would apply to teens on golf carts as well. Ramsey said that was not his intent though he has asked for clarification on the matter from legislative legal staff.

Golf carts are considered motor vehicles under state law, but Ramsey said his proposal would add restrictions to a different code section, the one that governs driving restrictions for new drivers.

Some of the justification for Ramsey’s bill comes from a study conducted by Ford Motor Company that tested 16-year-old drivers and adult drivers in a driving simulator while they used hands-free cellphone devices. When confronted with dangerous situations, the teens made mistakes five times more often than the adult driver, Ramsey explained.

Ramsey said he had a close call a few months back when a teen using her cellphone nearly ran into his car. He avoided a crash by driving into the median on Peachtree Parkway south of Booth Middle School.

Ramsey said his bill is aimed at drivers under 18 so the cellphone ban would coincide with existing driving restrictions on that age group under the Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act.

When those restrictions were adopted in 1997, it reduced by 40 percent the number of fatal crashes for 16-year-old drivers in a five-year period, he said.

Had cellphone use in autos been so rampant then it certainly would have been banned under that legislation, Ramsey said.

One teen complained that the fine was much higher than for other moving violations. Ramsey said it has to be high enough to gain the public’s attention. As an example, he said a similar ban in Nevada didn’t work because the $25 fine was not enough to discourage cellphone use while driving.

“As you know, with one or two tickets in your school, one of your classmates gets dinged with a $175 fine and they violate it again and get dinged with a $500 fine, people are going to start talking,” Ramsey said. “Word’s going to get out, people will talk. It will serve as a deterrent, in my opinion.”

Ramsey said he knows the bill would not make teen driver cellphone use go away.

“Teens are still going to use their phones while they drive, but if we can reduce the number, I think we’ve done a good thing,” he said.

One teenage audience member suggested the state needed to produce an informational campaign instead of enacting the teen driver cellphone ban. Ramsey noted that the state has undertaken just such a campaign for the past five years, but no one in the audience said they had even heard of it.

New Fayette County Sheriff Wayne Hannah, who attended the meeting, was asked how the law would be enforced. He said that most likely deputies would enforce the law after pulling a driver over for another traffic violation.

As for some teens’ complaints about the need to make non-emergency calls while driving, Ramsey suggested there’s always a place to pull off the road to safely make a phone call.

“If it’s truly an emergency there are exceptions in the bill,” Ramsey said. “… If you’re talking about inconvenience versus safety for you and safety for others on the road, I think we need to come down on the side of safety over inconvenience.”

Ramsey said the bill is not guaranteed to pass this year as he has heard concerns from fellow legislators. One legislator was quoted in the Atlanta paper recently as saying she thought the proposed fine was too high.

The prospects of Georgia adopting a cellphone ban on drivers of all ages is not feasible at this time, Ramsey added.

“If we introduced a bill for everybody, it just wouldn’t pass. No question,” Ramsey said.

After the meeting Ramsey said he was encouraged with the turnout by the teens, and he urged them to stay in contact with him, Sen. Ronnie Chance of Tyrone and the governor’s office about this issue and others that might affect them.

Also after the meeting a junior at Fayette County High School said he supported the concept for the teen cellphone ban.

“I think it is a great bill because as teenagers are growing up they have to learn certain responsibilities,” Jacob Heard said. “… just like the drinking age — you can’t drink until you’re 21 — it allows us to grow up some more and learn from mistakes that a lot of teenagers like myself make.”

Article by Jon Munford, TheCitizen.com

Drivers Jump On Cycles to Save Gas

Just because you aren’t driving a car, doesn’t mean you can’t be on the receiving end of a traffic ticket. As many have converted their commute vehicle to a bicycle, moped, motorcycle or even motorized scooter in some cases, adherence to Georgia’s Traffic Laws is still important.

“The rising cost of gasoline has many people considering alternate modes of transportation.

Area bicycle and motorcycle shop managers say sales are up from last year. Last week, Aiken Motorcycle Sales and Service had sold out of every middleweight motorcycle, scooter and moped by Wednesday.

“The largest portion of the mopeds and scooters we sell are to people who are going to use them as transportation,” said sales manager Marsha Hopkins.

Sales began to increase around mid-March, just about the time gas prices started spiking, she said.

Nationally, bicycle sales reached $6 billion in 2007. Sales in 2002 were $5.2 billion, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

Though many of the traffic laws in South Carolina and Georgia also apply to bicycle riders, each has its own safety rules. And commuting differs from recreational biking.

“There’s a lot more things you have to think about when you’re riding through city streets,” said Andy Jordan, a North Augusta resident and owner of Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse.”

Article By Lisa Kaylor, AugustaChronicle.com

Georgia Traffic Laws