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Friday, May 4, 2012 - 10:19am

Villa Rica Drivers Need Headsets

Soon, driving through the west Georgia city of Villa Rica will mean hanging up your cell phone or using a hands-free headset.

The city council passed the new law this week. It’s already illegal to send text messages while driving in Georgia, and bus drivers and teens under 18 are banned from using cell phones at all.

But Villa Rica appears to be the first Georgia municipality to require the use of a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth headset. The ordinance’s sponsor said he doesn’t think it will necessarily be any more difficult to enforce than the city’s speed limit.

“We’re gonna have to tell the public by signs,” said City Councilman Woody Holland. “Just like when you come out of Florida and you’re riding a motorcycle and you have your helmet off, the state of Georgia puts up a sign that says ‘put your helmet on, folks.’”

Holland said he got the idea from other cities and states that have similar restrictions. It should go into effect in about 60 days, once the city has time to put up those signs and warn the public.

Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said he’s in favor of anything that makes roads safer. But he warned requiring hands-free cell phone use might not reduce accidents.

“The studies have shown that even using a hands-free device, which is included in this ordinance, does not give your total focus to driving that car,” Blackwood said. “You’re [still] engaged in a conversation. It’s no different if you were engaged in a conversation with someone else in the car or trying to do something else or adjust the radio or the air conditioning. Distractions are a problem for drivers.”

National data suggests distracted driving is a factor in one of every five crashes.

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