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Have you ever thought of the cost? ... Of Being 'In Touch' When Driving?

Have you ever thought how most everything that we get text to us is not as urgent as it seems? Or the phone calls we receive don’t carry near the urgen­cy that we may think they do? When we receive a calls or text while driv­ing, whatev­er the mes­sage is, is it worth a life or lives?

Not too many years ago, you were not distracted by those trying to reach you. The simple fact that our means of communicating are so mobile adds a false note of urgency, most anything can wait until we safely stop our vehicle.

Have you ever thought that the life you may be saving when you are not distracted while driving may be your own? Or one you love? Or it could be my life? Or you the read­er of this columns life? The automobile is a great convenience, but it brings with this convenience, the potential of great pain. When we drive, we must make that our focus.

Of course, one way around risking so much is to use a hands-free de­vise. This allows you to receive the message with­out taking our hands off the wheel. Effective as of July 1, 2018, there is a new law in Georgia that males it illegal for a driver to have in his or her hand. while driving, a cellphone or any other electronic de­vice. We must stop hav­ing the phone in our hand while driving.

Governor Nathan Deal chose to sign this, into law, not at the state capital which is the norm. But rather at Statesboro on I-16 in honor of the five nursing students from Georgia Southern Uni­versity who were killed by a distracted driver. The hope is that removing the devise from our hands, we will more likely follow the law and not text while we drive.

As House Bill 673 be­comes the law, it will be easier for officials to en­force the ban on texting while driving. Observing a phone in one’s hand will be sufficient to charge one with distracted driving. There will be a $150 fine for the first offices, and $300 if an accident Is in­volved. Points will also be added to one’s driving record.

Not driving distract­ed makes a big difference in helping with highway safety. National statis­tics show the one in every four highway accidents are caused by texting while driving. The purpose of the new law is to make the enforcing of current laws much more enforceable. Let it be a challenge to all of to be aware of the needs to have our hands on the wheel.

Early in my life I learned the bitter cost of what not being focused on driving can bring. It can be a high price. Long before the day of texting and cellphone use being a cause of acci­dents, there was the simple issue of being in too big of a hurry. Some seven­ty years ago my family was involved in a tragic automobile accident. We had come from our home in Athens to pick up my grandmother in Jersey to go to Atlanta. Just out­side of Covington a truck coming towards us lost control. It left the high­way and hit our car head on. My grandmother and little brother were both killed. Of course, this was all before the days of seat belts, air bags, special chil­dren seats, and many other modern safety features. If they had been available, I would prob­ably have had many more years with my grandmother and brother.

The driver of the truck was convicted for driv­ing too fast for the road conditions. I don’t know what assignment the other driver was on, but I know being a few minutes ear­lier could not have been worth two lives and the serious injuries it caused. So, with distracted driving today. The false sense of urgency to communicate can be costly.

Ten percent of all fatal automobile accidents are caused by distracted driv­ers. In the last year statis­tics were available, 2016, 421,000 were injured in accidents involving a dis­tracted driver.

We know that improve­ments in technology have saved lives in automobile accidents. But we have also learned that some advances in technology have added to the death total. One good example is the amazing device, the cellphone, that allows us to stay in contact with the world most places we may drive. The challenge is use our phones while driving in a responsible way.

We must not let our availability become a lia­bility. The new law taking effect on July 1 is a great reminder to use the tech­nology we are blessed with responsibly. And you don’t have to wait to July 1 to start driving responsi­bly with your hands on the wheel and your eye on the road. After all, it is already the law, just more difficul­ty to prove.

Let this new law be a re­minder to focus on your driving and not to be dis­tracted.

B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.