It was a distracted driver who forever changed the life of Cynthia Williams of Tucker.
In August 2006, her 17-year-old son Christopher was a passenger in a vehicle that flipped nine times. Christopher suffered extensive head trauma.
“I had to pull the plug on him a week later,” Williams said. “It was on my birthday.”
After that event Williams began a campaign against distracted driving, which she believes caused her son’s death.
“I want to save more lives by making the whole country a ‘no phone zone’” in vehicles, said Williams, founder of Parents Against Distracted Driving.
Currently there are 10 states that have laws restricting the use of cellphones while driving and Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-84) wants Georgia to join those states. Mayo has sponsored legislation in the Georgia House of Representatives that he said would “reduce the amount of distracted driving on Georgia roads and highways.”
“I believe cellphone use is one of the common causes of traffic accidents due to distracted driving,” Mayo said.
The proposed law, HB 31, would require drivers to use hands-free devices when talking on the cellphone and driving.
“This bill is a safety bill and would protect drivers,” Mayo said. “Distracted drivers are causing dangerous conditions because of a lack of focus and attention to the road and more attention to their conversation.
“The phone being held is one reason why the driver can’t have two hands on the wheel. This bill would curtail distracted driving and make Georgia roads safer for others,” Mayo said.
Mayo said there is some opposition to the proposed law from those who believe it legislation would infringe upon their rights.
“My belief is when you’re distracted and you’re holding a cellphone, you not only put yourself in danger but you’re putting the lives of others in harm’s way due to the large number of traffic accidents and fatalities caused by distracted driving,” Mayo said.
“HB31 is one I hope will save lives and protect our drivers and make conditions safer for motorists on Georgia roads.”
According to data compiled by the Governors Highway Safety Association, 10 states prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving; 33 states ban all cellphone use by novice drivers; and 39 states ban text messaging for all drivers. An additional five states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
Texting while driving in Georgia has been banned since 2010; Mayo said that law has helped.
“It’s a deterrent when drivers understand the law, discourages them from using handheld devices and they’re more mindful of their behavior because of laws in place,” Mayo said. “We see on the road the [signs] that give drivers warnings not to text and drive; there have been citations issued by law enforcement and I believe the no-texting law has helped.
“I would like to expand the law to include a prohibition of handheld cellphone use so that we can reduce traffic accidents and curtail the amount of distracted driving even more,” Mayo said.
The proposed law would “lessen some of the car crash statistics,” said Williams, who speaks at funerals and tells surviving family members that “this person is in a casket because someone was using a phone.”
“My testimony can save the life of you or your children,” she said.