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The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • The July 1st initiation of the revamped distracted-driving law — the Hands-Free Georgia Act — is conjuring up questions, criticism, and anxiety. I’ve heard from many people who think that the beefed-up law is simply another source of revenue or that it doesn’t go far enough to stop distracted driving. Others are confused about if they’re allowed to stream audio on their phones (yes, as long as it’s only adjusted while the vehicle is legally parked; adjusting it on the dashboard screen is legal). And still others think the new rules ban phone calls and GPS (nope, they only ban people holding their phones while driving, unless they are making an emergency call). One fact should calm all of us down: this has been done already in 15 states. Fifteen. Over the past two weeks, we have covered what the law allows and bans and discussed some devices and advice for using a phone legally. The new law pretty much bans ever holding a phone while driving and makes other acts such as texting completely hands-free. It also completely bans watching or shooting videos behind the wheel. And the adjustments people must make are very similar to those people have made in other states. I cast a net on social media, asking my friends in states with similar laws what they did to adjust. One, who wished to remain unnamed, said the adjustment was simple: use a headset or Bluetooth earpiece. Having these or even earbuds on just one ear is perfectly legal under Georgia’s new law and makes using the phone without holding it much easier. This same friend was in New York when the laws changed and got caught holding his phone. But the officer gave him a warning, plus the threat of a $300 fine the next time it happened again, and he complied. He said that while using the headset was at first an inconvenience, he got used to it quickly and really had no issues once he got a car with a Bluetooth system. Kelli Kitchens moved from Georgia to Maryland, where the hands-free laws are more strict than Georgia’s now. It wasn’t a big deal to her. “I honestly can’t say it was much of an adjustment moving to Maryland. I admit to using my phone a couple of times while driving with no consequences,” Kitchens said in a Facebook message. “A co-worker of mine up there was holding and talking on the phone and stopped at a red light one time. She mentioned an officer pulled up next to her and motioned for her to put the phone down, but didn’t initiate a traffic stop or issue a citation for it.” These are two instances where officers could have ticketed and fined drivers, but chose not to. Enforcement has been a big question among many I have talked to about the law. The supposed “90-day grace period” is something that only the Georgia State Patrol has mentioned. But even GSP has said that they will nab people under the new law, if the circumstances are bad enough or extremely egregious. Each law enforcement agency can choose whether or not they have a grace period, though many likely will go easy at first. Other respondents to my question about laws in other states seemed very nonchalant about the laws’ existence. Technology is good enough now, even on older phones, to be able to obey the rules fairly easily. Tractor trailer drivers have had to comply with similar laws for several years. And even if the stricter law causes people to make major changes in their behavior, it is rightfully so. Traffic crashes and deaths have seen sharp increases in Georgia in the last few years and our insurance premiums are among the highest in the nation. Behavior needs to change. And texting behind the wheel, moving or not, has been illegal for eight years. But people do it now more than ever. Lawmakers needed to make the law against texting and driving, the most dangerous of the behind-the-wheel phone habits, easier to enforce. They now have banned people holding or resting their phones on themselves. Most states with similar laws have seen at least a 15% decrease in annual traffic deaths. If Georgia gets anywhere near that success rate, the changes are worth the culture shock.
  • The July 1st Hands-Free Georgia Act meets Georgians at the intersection of driving and phones. Any changes with either are not just about enforcement, they are culture-shock. As we covered here last week, the amended “Anti-Texting Law” now bans drivers from holding or resting phones while they use them anywhere on their bodies, period.  The law allows people to dial phone numbers and adjust GPS navigation, as long as the phone is in a holder, on the seat, or on the console (again, not on the person). The law allows zero device-touching for texting, adjusting streaming apps, social media, emails, or anything else.  Drivers can do those things completely hands-free or through a car entertainment system in the dashboard.  And the law completely bans watching or shooting videos from behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. This then bears this question: do drivers need to buy anything to use phones more legally behind the wheel? “We don’t want to get into the situation where we’re telling people they have to buy something,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Communications Manager Robert Hydrick told the AJC and WSB.  Hydrick said that the law is lenient enough to prevent people from having to buy tools or better vehicles to use their phones, but that does not mean people should simply just obey the new law. Drivers should strive higher to decrease their chances of getting hurt and hurting others.  “You can make phone calls, but what we want people to understand is to limit your phone calls,” he said. Hydrick said that a good rule of thumb is to just try to limit calls to the bare minimum of length, instead of 30-minute, soul-baring therapy sessions. (Okay, I added that last part). For people that compare phone-use to other acts, like talking to a passenger or eating, Hydrick said the difference is that phone calls and texts take much longer than taking a bite and are more mentally distracting. And he said that some studies show that any kind phone use increases chances of death by four times. That and the increasing crashes and insurance premiums recently in Georgia is why this law is getting more strict. To legally and more safely make calls, drivers can start with just putting an earbud in one ear. If drivers use the earbuds that come with their phones, they normally have mics on them that allow for easy hands-free control of calls and other phone functions. Driving with one earbud or a cheap Bluetooth earpiece (as cheap as $7-10) is legal and much more safe than holding a phone or using speakerphone. As for housing the phone, the law says it cannot be on your body at all when in use. While drivers can put the phone in a cup holder, on a console, or on a seat and then use the speaker, trying to reach over and make calls and input addresses into a GPS is very difficult. Having the phone at or near eye-level makes using it much easier and safer.  Walmart (no, they are not sponsoring this article) has phone holders that clip into AC vents for as cheap as five bucks. I personally use one that is similar to what police use, that extends off of a post attached to my console, but that may be over the top for most people. Many stores also carry phone holders that suction to windshields and, contrary to some rumors online, windshield mounts are not illegal in Georgia. If drivers have newer cars, they should learn how to use the in-car options. Most late models are Bluetooth-ready, as are most mobile devices. The newest cars interact nearly seamlessly with phones for calls, texts, streaming, and GPS. Android Auto is even more user-friendly than Apple CarPlay, but both mobile giants have gone to great lengths to innovate in this field. A little time spent in the driveway with a car owner’s manual and the phone could go a long way to improving the commute. Drivers should also explore what options in their phone settings can limit notifications and even calls. Apple’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature under “General” and “Restrictions” in the “Settings” part of the phone allows drivers to choose to allow certain interactions when the phone thinks the vehicle is in motion. Android and Windows phones have a similar “Driving Mode” feature that users can manipulate in the “Settings” section of the app list on the device. Enabling these will help set up some useful guardrails as people adjust to the law. Hydrick said the law is more about changing a mindset. “What we hope to see happen when this law goes into effect is to see people get the phones out of their hands and spend more time driving and less time interacting with their phones.” GOHS has a very helpful site for those with questions on the law: http://www.headsupgeorgia.com/. This is part two in a four-part series on the Hands-Free Georgia Act. Next week, we look at how drivers and law enforcement adapted to similar laws in other states. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • July 1st is a landmark day for transportation safety in Georgia. The highly ballyhooed, awaited and analyzed Hands-Free Georgia Act goes into effect and drivers everywhere are scrambling to figure out just what they can and cannot do. AJC’s David Wickert has a good, concise breakdown on the basics of the law. Very basically, drivers can no longer hold phones and drive. That is the biggest change.  Smilin’ Mark McKay and I recently hosted a two-hour show show on this very subject on News 95.5/AM750 WSB. Listeners packed the phone lines with questions about what they could and couldn’t do and on enforcement. Almost everyone was completely in favor of the law — in fact, plenty thought it does not go far enough. We spoke with state Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, co-author of this seismic new bill that amended the 2010 anti-texting law. Carson said the initial bill allowed for only one swipe to answer a phone call, but the final product is slightly more lenient. “The biggest misconception is that Georgia drivers will not be able to use their phones,” Carson explained. “What the law says is that you physically cannot hold it or support it.” Drivers soon will be no longer allowed to cradle or hold a phone or other electronic wireless device behind the wheel, unless we are making an emergency call. Georgians cannot use more than one button to answer or use a mobile phone. And they cannot reach for one, if doing so requires undoing a seat belt or standing up. Drivers are allowed to use GPS, voice-to-text features, and can make and receive phone calls hands-free. Single-ear headphones and Bluetooth pieces are acceptable aids for this. If a driver doesn’t have a Bluetooth-capable car or device, using an earbud with a mic on it (like the ones that come with most phones) is a good workaround. The bill also still allows for use of in-car navigation, communication and entertainment systems. The no-brainer part of the bill is straightforward: Along with already-banned texting, drivers can no longer answer emails or other queries, watch videos or record from behind the wheel. Believe it or not, these actions are still legal, technically, until July 1st. But don’t do it! As long as someone is legally parked, they are allowed to do these things. But “legally parked” does not mean at a stoplight or in gridlocked traffic. Also, law enforcement, emergency and utility workers are still allowed to use their phones. One big benefit of the law change may be that enforcing the original anti-texting law will be more enforceable. Now officers can easily see if someone is holding their phone or not, no matter what they are actually doing. But the Georgia State Patrol knows this is a learning process for drivers. “While we intend to issue a great number of written warnings and have a lot of conversations on the benefits of going hands-free, each particular interaction is being left up to the discretion of the trooper,” GSP Capt. Mark Perry said. “If the trooper feels that a citation is warranted for a particular situation (crashes with injuries/fatalities etc.), then a citation will be issued. But by and large, the first few weeks and months will be focused on education about the new law.” Whether state law enforcement agencies go easy or not at first, we all have a duty to keep our hands off of our phones and carefully use them in the situations the law allows. Carson said that 13 of the 15 states that already have similar laws have seen at least a 16 percent decrease in traffic deaths. GDOT says that 1,549 people died on Georgia’s roads in 2017. If we all do our jobs and obey the Hands-Free Georgia Act, that number could decrease by almost 250 per year. Penalties for breaking the law aren’t steep. First-time offenders get one point on their license and a $50 fine. The second offense is two points and $100 and the third is three points and $150. Over the next three weeks leading up to the July 1st start date, we will explore tools to make using phones in the car more hands-free, how drivers in other states with similar laws behave, and what employers will have to do to make their fleet drivers legal. Be sure to check back for that. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com
  • Campaign season: where ads drench the airwaves like May weather drenches shirts. Accusations and proclamations fly and snippets of headlines, bills, and quotes quickly frame and cram a candidate’s point into a 30- or 60-second avail. With local races, people (and admittedly this writer) barely know the candidates and the commercials become a main “CliffsNotes” of what the candidate and their opponents believe. Of course, falling hook, line, and sinker for facts in campaign ads is akin to believing the artisanal chef in Taco Bell commercials. This is certainly true with one such claim from Georgia gubernatorial candidate Clay Tippins about Republican primary front-runner Casey Cagle. This is verbatim from a heavy-rotation radio ad: “Casey spent $250,000 of your tax money on private planes to beat the traffic, because Casey’s statewide, billion-dollar-a-year tax increase to fix Atlanta traffic … didn’t fix a thing.” This line has more holes than a tin can in Brian Kemp’s yard. First, does commissioning a private plane for this really make sense? Doing so may be wasteful, but flying to different corners of the state saves far more time than the delays traffic causes. Have you ever heard the saying, “As the crow flies”? And did Cagle really fly over only Atlanta (whose traffic the ad singles out) just to avoid the bad traffic? That’s a very short distance for a plane flight. The ad connects two potential truths — Cagle’s private, taxpayer-funded flights and the bad Atlanta traffic — and makes a likely false axiom. Classic move. The next part of the commercial really sinks low and is dangerous to the notion of an informed populace. The ad claims that the $1 billion transportation funding bill that Cagle championed did nothing to help traffic. This is simply untrue. The 2015 Transportation Funding Act increased gas, electric vehicle, heavy vehicle and hotel taxes to fund mostly a backlog of road maintenance. At the time, GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said just that to the AJC. “We may be able to do other projects outside of maintenance … but not like rebuilding 285 or something huge like that.” Actually, I-285 is getting some love. The bill required GDOT to develop not just a plan for routine maintenance, but also a 10-year strategic plan to move Georgia forward. In the fall of 2016, McMurry exclusively shared highlights of this plan with WSB and the AJC. Parts of it include the Express Toll Lanes being added to I-85 up to Hamilton Mill Road and the Transform I-285/GA-400 project. There are longer term plans to build four additional toll lanes around some of I-285, redo the I-285/I-20 interchange in Fulton, add toll lanes to GA-400, widen I-16 and I-75 in central and south Georgia, build new lanes along I-85 up to the South Carolina line, and add more capacity to Spaghetti Junction in DeKalb. These are just the big projects. The plan is comprehensive and makes bolder moves than the voter-rejected 2012 TSPLOST plan. Traffic is getting worse in Atlanta, as the population grows. If the government doesn’t move forward with infrastructure and transit plans and if the private sector doesn’t change its behavior and policies, the jams grow worse, faster. Tippins’ correlating the worsening traffic to Cagle’s failed plan is typical political theater, but incredibly misleading. Infrastructure plans don’t eliminate current traffic; they build for the future growth. And we can’t forget the importance of routine maintenance and how cash-strapped GDOT has been in staying ahead on it. Decreasing fuel revenue has hampered GDOT’s budget, so the 2015 plan was a big shot in the arm. Without enough funding, road-paving, grass-cutting, pothole-filling, bridge-inspecting and the like do not happen on schedule. The roads are in bad enough shape — does defunding their maintenance even more help traffic? Most Georgians, especially Atlantans, agree that traffic is bad and that government should have at least some role in maintaining and building the roads. While there are many disagreements about how to do this, spreading false narratives about efficacy just keep Georgia standing still both literally and figuratively. Fixing our biggest traffic problems starts with making a move, not rebuffing all ideas.
  • If one commutes enough in Atlanta, they’re sure to get in a crash — I’ve been in my share. The feeling of confidence and safety behind the wheel completely vanishes when bumpers connect. Suddenly, involved parties are standing on the side of the road, eyeing damage, dialing phones, waiting, and running late. Happy Monday! Drivers in wrecks, however, can take some steps to improve the commute around them, shorten their wait times, make themselves safer, and ensure they satisfy their insurers. First, Georgia law 40-6-275 explicitly states that any drivers in a wreck on a public road must, “… remove said vehicles from the immediate confines of the roadway into a safe refuge on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median or to a place otherwise removed from the roadway…”. Big exceptions to this include injuries to the licensed driver of the car (though another licensed driver is permitted to safely move it) or if the vehicle is incapacitated. The “Steer and Clear” law is often ignored, but it’s vital. The WSB Traffic Team and I see many minor wrecks stay in travel lanes for far too long, causing big jams on interstates and side roads. Drivers that violate “Steer and Clear” can get a ticket. People do not need to wait for first responders’ arrival to try and move their cars. When calling the police about a wreck, be very explicit about the exact location and the types of vehicles involved. Almost every driver has a smartphone and a mapping app to find their location (might I suggest the WSB Triple Team Traffic Alerts App?). If you’re stuck in travel lanes or another dangerous spot, call the GDOT HERO Units at 511. If police and/or HEROs don’t respond quickly, keep calling. HERO trucks (or the new GDOT CHAMP vehicles in some outlying areas) heighten their response times when traffic is interrupted. And stay in the vehicle — do not get out to take pictures or make calls, until having moved safely out of the road. Also, turn on the hazard lights, to warn passing motorists of the problem. Law enforcement sometimes struggles in responding to non-injury fender-benders, especially those that are not blocking lanes. Crashes right on county or city lines can cause jurisdictional squabbles. Georgia State Patrol handles some agencies’ interstate wrecks, such as Atlanta, Cobb, and Gwinnett — but they often do not on weekends and nights. Add in personnel shortages, and response times can really disappoint sometimes. So know that calling the police is not always imperative in a wreck. State law 40-6-273 does say to call the police immediately when, “… in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or property damage to an apparent extent of $500.00 or more …”. If the wreck is more minor than that, law enforcement sources tell the AJC that drivers only must exchange license, insurance, and tag info. This is particularly true if drivers are not trying to claim any piece of the wreck on their insurance. If drivers want to claim a wreck on their insurance, AAA, which helps provide auto, life, and home insurance, has some advice. If those in the crash do not request the police at the scene, the parties should go together to the police department. “This helps the insurance company with its investigation and helps determine who is not at fault in the loss,” AAA spokesman Garrett Townsend told the AJC. Drivers can help their own cause by taking pictures at the crash scene. AAA’s policy is to request a police report for a wreck, but customers should submit their own on a claim, if they have one. Every driver should know what their insurance company requires, so they know how to handle crashes. Drivers knowing and following Georgia law will help traffic move better and keep them safer. Contacting 511 for wrecks on interstates and major highways clears lanes faster. Knowing the law and their respective insurance company’s rules will make the claim process easier. Put these things into practice and crash scenes become safer and less of a hassle than they normally are.

News

  • Showers and storms are moving across parts of metro Atlanta right now.  A Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Stephens, Habersham, Rabun and Oconee counties until 4:45 p.m. Severe Weather Team 2 is tracking the timing of rain in your neighborhood, on Channel 2 Action News at 6 p.m. Storms will increase across north Georgia later Saturday morning and into the afternoon.  A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is in effect for northeast Georgia until 4 p.m. Saturday. SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH: A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect until 4pm for northwest Georgia as a cluster of strong storms moves in out of Alabama. We'll be watching it closely through the afternoon. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/SoKhpozYro — Brian Monahan, WSB (@BMonahanWSB) June 23, 2018 The main risks are heavy rain, frequent lightning, and strong 40 to 60 mph wind gusts, Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said. Showers and storms will be widespread today across north GA -- here's hoping we can find some windows to get the game in today @SunTrustPark! First place @Braves and @Orioles at 4:10pm. #ChopOn pic.twitter.com/TKtDp3hYBC — Brian Monahan, WSB (@BMonahanWSB) June 23, 2018 [DOWNLOAD: WSB-TV's Weather App for alerts on severe weather] “After storms move through today, we’ll get into a drier weather pattern as a ridge of high pressure builds aloft,” Monahan said. “That will shift the greatest chance of storms tomorrow toward the north Georgia mountains.”  This pattern will continue into Wednesday, with a 20 to 30 percent chance of storms each day.  With drier weather moving in, temperatures will push into the low to mid 90s. What can you get only by watching Channel 2 Action News?  1. Updated hour-by-hour cloud and rain forecast showing the timeline of evening showers and storms and the preferred location for storms Sunday into early this week. 2. Updated severe weather outlook for Saturday evening. 3. A specific breakdown of where the highest chance of rain is Sunday.    Powerful storms downed trees and power lines across the Atlanta metro Friday evening and more are possible throughout the weekend.  One of the giant trees in Colette Inomata’s East Cobb backyard came crashing to the ground during the storms.  “I jumped up, looked in my backyard and the trees were sideways, and I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life,” Inomata told Channel 2’s Justin Wilfon .  Inomata and her son told Wilfon they were inside their home when the storm blew through.  “All of a sudden the sound just shifted dramatically, and I heard this whish, whish sound or something.  I don’t know what it was,” Inomata said.  That’s when she said they headed for a downstairs closet.  “I’m more of the panicker, so I was screaming for them to come downstairs and take cover immediately. I think they sensed from my voice tone that something was really wrong,” Inomata told Wilfon. TRENDING STORIES: SWAT team called to home after man shoots mother, police say Georgia teachers can get free school supplies from Kroger 4 Wendy's employees accused of dealing meth at restaurant Then the family noticed the large tree laying across their backyard. “I was really shook up. You keep thinking of the what ifs and what it could have been,” Inomata said. “I’m grateful. Feeling blessed that it wasn’t the house or the kids or anything like that.” The storms weakened throughout the evening Friday as they moved east out of Georgia. The threat of severe weather will pick back up with the heating of the day on Saturday. “As we head into the afternoon there are better rain chances,” said Severe Weather Team 2’s Brad Nitz.  Nitz said another round of possible severe storms will move into north Georgia after 6 p.m. Saturday.  “These storms could have heavy rain, gusty wind, lightning and even some small hail,” Nitz said.  Highs Saturday will reach the high 80s, close to 90 throughout the metro.  Things will heat up a bit Sunday, with temperatures in the low 90s. Rain chances are expected to increase by midweek.   A Minute-by-Minute look at the storms: 10 p.m.: A Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Floyd and Bartow counties until 10:30 p.m. 7:02 p.m.: A Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Spalding, Meriwether, Fayette, Pike, Heard, Coweta and Lamar counties until 7:30 p.m. 6:37 p.m.: A Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Heard and Coweta counties until 7p.m. 6:36 p.m.: Storms have downed a number of trees across Milton Weather/Traffic Alert: Evening storms have downed a number of trees across #MiltonGa. 14660 Freemanville Road completely blocked. Hope to have road reopened in 2-2.5 hrs. Drivers navigate carefully--trees & road crews in the roadway. Please RT.— City of Milton (@cityofmiltonga) June 22, 2018 6:16 p.m.: A Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for Meriwether, Troup and Coweta counties until 7 p.m. New severe thunderstorm warning until 7pm for this storm moving into LaGrange with 60+ mph gusts possible. pic.twitter.com/IHxvo9E5gg — Brad Nitz (@BradNitzWSB) June 22, 2018 6:13 p.m.: Georgia Power is reporting about 4,100 customers are currently without power across metro: Per @GeorgiaPower 4,100 customers are in the dark in the Metro due to storms. #StormWatchOn2 — Katie Walls (@KatieWallsWSB) June 22, 2018 6:10 p.m. A viewer sent in a picture of a tree down across the road along Whitlock Avenue in Marietta: We just got in this photo of a tree down on Whitlock Ave. in Marietta. We're tracking the storms NOW on Channel 2: https://t.co/WRRkDYmnJn pic.twitter.com/2f29JqAdS9 — WSB-TV (@wsbtv) June 22, 2018 6:06 p.m. Channel 2's Lauren Pozen just tweeted this video of heavy rain in Buckhead Total downpour right now in Buckhead. Wind,rain and thunder. Low visibility. Rain coming down in sheets. #StormWatchOn2 pic.twitter.com/6uuPx059An — Lauren Pozen WSB (@LaurenPozenWSB) June 22, 2018 6:04 p.m. a Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for DeKalb, Douglas, Clayton and Fulton counties until 6:45 p.m. 6:01 p.m.: The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office is warning about fallen trees and powerlines: ***WEATHER/TRAFFIC ALERT*** FCSO has trees and power lines down on the following roadways in southwest Forsyth. Valley Stream Drive Post Road at Derby Trail is CLOSED Majors Road near Castleberry Road Use extreme caution while driving.— ForsythCountySO (@ForsythCountySO) June 22, 2018 5:58 p.m.: Channel 2's Richard Elliot is reporting that a tree has fallen across Interstate 20.  Ugh. Tree down on I-20WB about two miles west of Lee Rd. It's affecting traffic all the way back past Thornton Rd. pic.twitter.com/zunLK8D8Al — Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) June 22, 2018
  • Two sinkholes have opened on Venture Drive near Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, a county spokesman said. The road is closed between Steve Reynolds Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road, a block from the mall’s entrance. The holes, which closed the road right in front of a Sam’s Club, are related to privately owned pipes which were not draining properly, according to spokesman Joe Sorenson. The road is also privately owned. READ | Study: Here’s how much you have to make to afford to live in Gwinnett One of the sinkholes could be seen just beyond caution tape. It was wider and longer than a car and at least five feet deep. The orange helmet of a construction worker peeked out from the hole at the edge of the cratered pavement. County workers from the water, transportation and police departments have responded to the sinkholes and are monitoring the situation, Sorenson said. The county is working to remedy the situation and re-open the road as soon as it is safe. The sinkholes do not block access to the mall, which is on the other side of Pleasant Hill Drive. Like Gwinnett County News on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter and Instagram Stay up to the minute with breaking news on Channel 2 Action News This Morning
  • Trump administration officials say the U.S. government knows the location of all children in its custody after separating them from their families at the border and is working to reunite them. A fact sheet on 'zero-tolerance prosecution and family reunification' released Saturday night by the Department of Health and Human Services also says a parent must request that their child be deported with them. In the past, the agency says, many parents have elected to be deported without their children. That may be a reflection of violence or persecution they face in their home countries. As part of the effort, HHS says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have posted notices in all its facilities advising detained parents who are trying to find or communicate with their children to call a hotline staffed 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. A parent or guardian trying to determine if a child is in the custody of HHS should contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center at 1-800-203-7001, or via email information@ORRNCC.com. Information will be collected and sent to HHS funded facility where minor is located. HHS doesn't state how long it might take to reunite families. The Port Isabel Service Processing Center in Texas has been set up as the staging ground for the families to be reunited prior to deportation. How the government would reunite families has been unclear because the families are first stopped by Customs and Border Patrol, with children taken into custody by HHS and adults detained through ICE. Children have been sent to shelters around the country, raising alarm that parents might never know where their children can be found. The HHS fact sheet states that ICE has implemented an identification mechanism to ensure on-going tracking of linked family members throughout the detention and removal process; designated detention locations for separated parents and will enhance current processes to ensure communication with children in HHS custody; worked closely with foreign consulates to ensure that travel documents are issued for both the parent and child at time of removal; and coordinated with HHS for the reuniting of the child prior to the parents' departure from the U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered the practice of separating parents and their children to stop. As of last Wednesday, 2,053 minors who were separated at the border were being cared for in HHS-funded facilities, HHS said. ___ Online: HHS zero-tolerance prosecution and family reunification fact sheet: http://apne.ws/qjYtmJR ___ Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center: Htto://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/resource/orr-national-call-center
  • A 9-year-old English bulldog was named the winner of the 2018 World's Ugliest Dog contest in the San Francisco Bay Area. Zsa Zsa won the title Saturday night at the Sonoma-Marin Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma. The dog's owner Megan Brainard of Anoka, Minnesota, will receive $1,500 for Zsa Zsa's win. Brainard found Zsa Zsa on a pet-finding site, according to the contest bio. Dogs in the annual competition flaunt their imperfections - some have hairless bodies, others have lolling tongues. The dogs and their handlers walk down a red carpet. The dogs are evaluated by a panel of judges. The contestants included a blackhead-covered Chinese Crested-Dachshund mutt, a bulldog mix with excess wrinkly skin and a Pekingese named Wild Thang. Last year's winner was a 125-pound (57-kilogram) gentle giant named Martha — a Neopolitan Mastiff with gas and a droopy face. The contest is in its 30th year. It is usually held on Friday nights, but organizers moved the competition to Saturday in an effort to draw a bigger audience.
  • A two-year old trapped under a massive pile of rocks in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was released from the hospital Saturday, thanks to a police officer with a unique talent. >> Read more trending news  It turned out the responding Portsmouth officer, T.J. Potter, had previous experience as a professional stone mason and specialized in historical foundation repair. Potter's experience helped him accurately assess the danger the child was in and properly remove the slabs from on top of the child. '[It was] a five man stone or a five man block which indicated that you would need four to five people to life it and set it on a wall, and we have done stones like that and built with stones like that, so I knew we could lift it by hand,' Potter said. 'I think that was the main concern – can we lift it off the boy?' Authorities responded to 325 Little Harbor Road after a distress call about a 2-year-old trapped under a pile of rocks.  >> Trending: Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker’s son accused of sexually assaulting woman on JetBlue flight When officers arrived, they found the boy pinned between large slabs of stone. The boy had been playing on top one of the stone slabs with his grandfather when the slab he was standing on dislodged. The child fell forward and was trapped by the slab, which came to rest on his head. The stone slabs are being used to build a foundation for a seawall and each slab is estimated to weigh several hundred pounds. The situation was highly delicate, police said, because one of the stone slabs was resting on the child's head, and could have given way at any moment, putting the child at risk of sustaining the full weight of the stone on his head. After a coordinated effort by police and firefighters, rescuers freed the boy in about nine minutes. The child's parents were able to keep him calm as first responders worked their way around the stone slabs and rescued him. >> Trending: 4 children killed in violent police standoff laid to rest in Florida The child was first given emergency medical treatment at the scene then transported to the Portsmouth Regional Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
  • The Latest on the annual World's Ugliest Dog Contest in Northern California (all times local): 8:23 p.m. A 9-year-old English bulldog was named the winner of the 2018 World's Ugliest Dog contest in the San Francisco Bay Area. Zsa Zsa won the title Saturday in the competition where dogs with hairless bodies and lolling tongues flaunt their imperfections. The dogs walk down a red carpet and are evaluated by a panel of judges. The winner takes home $1,500. Zsa Zsa's owner is Megan Brainard of Anoka, Minnesota. The event was held at the Sonoma-Marin Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma. Last year's winner was a 125-pound (57-kilogram) gentle giant named Martha — a Neopolitan Mastiff with gas and a droopy face. ___ 2:31 p.m. Dogs with hairless bodies and lolling tongues will flaunt their imperfections as they compete to win the 2018 World's Ugliest Dog contest in the San Francisco Bay Area. The event is taking place Saturday this year at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, a departure from previous years when it was held on Friday. Organizers say they wanted more people to attend. This year's dogs include a blackhead-covered Chinese Crested-Dachshund mutt and a bulldog mix with excess wrinkly skin. The dogs walk down a red carpet and are evaluated by a panel of judges. The winner takes home $1,500. Last year's winner was a 125-pound (57-kilogram) gentle giant named Martha — a Neopolitan Mastiff with gas and a droopy face.