Commissioner Stone pushes anti-texting

ALBANY -- Dougherty County Commissioner Jack Stone called on the county attorney Monday to open discussions with city officials about creating a joint city-county ordinance banning texting while driving.

Calling it a necessary step to protect the residents of the county, Stone renewed his call for an ordinance that would make it illegal in Dougherty County to text while operating a vehicle.

"I understand that the state may pass a law, but until they do, we need to protect the citizens of Dougherty County," Stone told his fellow commissioners.

Two legislators have introduced three bills in the House that would ban texting while driving, with one bill also outlawing using a cell phone while driving. Fines in the bills range from $100 to $300, along with points penalties on driver's license and increased fines if the violation occurred during an accident in which the driver was at fault. There is also a bill held over for Senate action from 2009 that would prohibit drivers under 18 from using any wireless communications device while driving.

If Dougherty County creates an ordinance and the General Assembly passes one of its own, the state law would trump the local ordinance.

Regardless of what the state does, Stone says that it's a public safety matter about a practice that is a hazard for anyone on the roads.

"It's just something that makes sense, to me at least," Stone said following the meeting Monday. "It's dangerous and these people could kill people. To me, it's just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than not wearing seatbelts."

County Attorney Spencer Lee said that he would draft an ordinance if directed by the commission, but that calling City Attorney Nathan Davis and "injecting" him into the discussion was inappropriate.

Texting wasn't the only thing Stone talked about banning Monday.

The commissioner also set his sights on people who wear their pants far below their waist, calling the practice "vile" and "indecent."

"Nobody wants to see somebody's drawers walking down the street," Stone said. "It's vile and indecent."

Lee said that the commission would likely run into legal issues if it tried to create an ordinance banning the practice.

"You can't tell people what to wear or how to dress," Lee said.

If passed, Dougherty County wouldn't be the first to outlaw the wearing of baggy pants. In Plains, the City Council passed an ordinance in January 2009 that assessed a fine of $50 on the second offense of being caught wearing sagging pants. First offenders get warnings, city hall officials say.