Police Resort to Spying on Distracted Motorists in Order to Curb Car Accidents

Georgia is one of 38 states that currently have a ban on texting while driving. Previously, we’ve discussed the distracted driving law that passed in Georgia nearly two years ago. As a recap, current prohibitions include:

– Text messaging banned for all drivers. Fines of $150.
– Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from using cell phones, regardless of whether a hands-free device is attached. Also bans computer use. Fines of $150.
– School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving, if passengers are present.

However, news coverage since the passing of the legislation has served to only highlight the statute’s many flaws and arguable ineffectiveness. In fact, as of October 2012, only about 1300 tickets have been issued under the distracting driving laws, according to the Department of Driver Services in Georgia. It has been so unsuccessful that many senators are considering presenting supplemental hands-free legislation during the 2013 session. Young drivers continue to struggle with compliance (https://blog.attorneyclientmatch.com/2011/12/texting-while-driving-a-problem-for-young-motorists-nhtsa-unveils-new-distracted-driving-measure-and.html) and car accidents brought on by distracted drivers continues to plague the country with ever-increasing frequency.

Both personal injury attorneys and law enforcement officials, it seems, are taking notice. Many have noted that enforcing the laws are extremely difficult, if not borderline impossible. A driver may indeed be pulled over for texting while driving, but officers are hard-pressed to confirm their suspicions, especially when gaining clear evidence may entail illegal search and seizure of a motorist’s mobile device. In light of this, many states are considering an experimental technique – actually “spying on motorists while they drive.”

According to Yahoo! News, the National Highway Transportation Association (NHTSA) last month announced a grant in the amount of $550,000 to fund the testing of a “variety of anti-texting moves over the next two years.” For now, the grant will allow police departments in both Connecticut and Massachusetts to experiment with everything from creative ad campaigns to roving patrols and it may herald similar endeavors in other states, including Georgia.

The grant will “pay for spotters on overpasses who could identify drives while they type.” Many wonder, however, how will this differ from the methods officers currently employ? Well, officers will literally spy on drivers by peering down into their cars from “unmarked, high-riding trucks or SUVs.” A modicum of success has already been reported, with officers being able to actually identify what apps drivers are using. Personally, I see some assertions of invalid searches in the near future.

Nevertheless, the fact that undercover officers are needed to identify distracted drivers violating the text ban speaks volumes about how large of an issue this has become. Drivers in Georgia would be well-advised to begin complying with the law now, before similar spying methods make their way to our neck of the woods.

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