The city of Smyrna says it is the first in Georgia to pass an ordinance that would ban drivers in its city limits from using hand-held devices like cell phones. Hands-free devices would be allowed.
Smyrna's city council voted 4-3 to approve the measure Tuesday night. The tie-breaking vote was cast by mayor Max Bacon. Councilman Ron Fennel recused himself from the vote. "Do I think this is going to correct or fix things? No. But I think this is going to be the beginning. We'll be the first city in the state of Georgia to have this ordinance," said Bacon. The mayor said his city could not wait for the state to act on the issue.
Other council members weighed-in, including Charles Welch. "I'm going to support the ordinance this evening, and if it only saves that one life, or prevents one child from being injured, that vote is well worth it," said Welch.
But council member Andrea Blustein offered concern. "We don't need 10 different communities coming up with these ordinances that are just a tad off here or a tad off there, said Blustein. "It's going to be the most confused mess that you ever hoped for." She said she "wants the state to do their job" so there is a more uniform way to attack the distracted driving problem.
Councilman Derek Norton sponsored the measure, which goes into effect on April 2nd. It calls for a max fine of $150, but over the first 45 days of the ordinance, police officers would only issue warnings.
He says Smyrna plans to collect data over the two-year life of the ordinance to see if it has an effect of reducing the number of distracted driving crashes.
A state lawmaker told WSB last month he is prepared to introduce legislation to the General Assembly that is "bold and comprehensive" in addressing distracted driving across Georgia.