By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 1, 2019
LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) -- As Florida launches its own 'hands-free' law, the Peach State is one year in, and many law enforcement agencies say the citation is helping to keep streets safer.
The latest numbers from the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety show 15,000 citations were given out in the law's first nine months by Georgia State Patrol alone.
The Georgia hands-free law bans drivers from holding phones while driving for any reason.
Both the Valdosta Police Department and the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office said it's working, and they're noticing a lot more drivers keeping phones out of their hands, but distracted driving is still an issue.
Valdosta Police officials say the department, on average, responds to about 300 crashes every month, and most of those are caused by distracted drivers.
"We work plenty of wrecks and collisions because of inattentiveness or distractions, and like I said, cell phone use is only one of many," said Sergeant J.D. Jones. "We're not going to be able to get every single person that's using their cell phone, but I can tell you that we're actively patrolling."
The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office said any given day, the department has about 20 units on patrol throughout the county.
While hands-free is not their top priority, it's a law officials look for, and they do believe it's working to keep drivers safer.
"It's like any other law, you don't get 100 percent but I think we're getting up in higher percentages of people realizing the danger and the purpose of the law," said Sheriff Ashley Paulk.
The Lowndes County Sheriff's office said they understand that habits are hard to break, and while enforcing the hands-free law and no texting while driving is part of their patrol, officials said the goal is not to just keep handing out tickets, it's about educating drivers about safe and attentive driving practices.
Sheriff's officials said the majority of those cited for are out of state drivers that are unaware of the Georgia law.