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Banned: Texting while carting

If you type on your phone while driving — including operating a golf cart — you’re almost certainly breaking a new state law that went into effect last week.

Text messaging, emailing and web surfing are now prohibited to all drivers under the new law, according to Fayette County Sheriff Wayne Hannah.

The ban applies to drivers of all ages, Hannah added. And in Peachtree City it will also apply to golf cart drivers whether they are on cart paths or city streets, according to Peachtree City Police Capt. Rosanna Dove.

The newly-approved complete ban on all cellphone use for drivers under the age of 18 may also be enforced on golf cart drivers, whether they are on the city’s cart path system or a public road, Dove said.

Hannah noted that adults particularly may not be aware the ban on texting, email and Internet use apply to drivers of all ages.

“Adults need to know it includes them,” Hannah said. “I can’t read my email, can’t do a web browser. It’s not just texting and it’s not just teenagers.”

Drivers who are cited for a violation risk a $150 fine, according to both laws.

Drivers are allowed to send text messages, use email and Internet if they are legally parked, Hannah said. But being stopped at a stop sign is not considered being legally parked, he added.

As far as enforcing the law, deputies will be looking for drivers who are punching away at their phones longer than it might take to enter a phone number, for example, Hannah said. If the driver keeps typing away, chances are very high he or she is breaking the new law.

Hannah also has ordered his deputies to curtail texting, emailing and surfing the web while they are on duty. Officers on duty are exempt under the law, but Hannah wants his deputies to drive safely as well, while also sending the right message to the motoring public at large.

“You need to be a safe driver and setting the example anyway,” Hannah said. “I’d rather you not be doing it even though by law you are considered exempt.”

Hannah said the public does watch the actions of deputies and he cited a recent anonymous complaint in The Citizen’s Free Speech about a deputy who didn’t use turn signals. Because the deputy’s car number was published, the deputy was made aware of the expectation that turn signals should be used even while on patrol, Hannah said.

Deputies will have a tougher time enforcing the complete ban on cellphone use for drivers under the age of 18, Hannah acknowledged. He said deputies will not be pulling drivers over because they appear to be underage by the law’s guidelines.

The sheriff’s office will undertake an educational campaign at local schools at the beginning of the school year, Hannah said.

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