New laws have hit the books

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

July 1 often brings a host of new laws that become effective in Georgia. As your sheriff, I am asked about these new laws daily.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share some information about the laws that I am asked about most often. Those are the laws about texting and driving, about seatbelts in pickup trucks, and the new gun laws.

Here is a simple breakdown:

Georgia has become the 28th state, together with the District of Columbia, to enact legislation against texting while driving. There is now a law prohibiting drivers under 18 years of age from using their cell phone for talking or texting unless in an emergency. Drivers 18 or over may talk on their phones but not text. This includes reading a text message. Violators of this new law will have points assessed against their driver's license.

Three years ago, Indiana became the 49th state to require seat belts in pickup trucks, leaving Georgia as the only exception. This year, that changed. It is estimated that requiring pickup truck drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts will save over 1,300 lives each year.

Georgia law now requires everyone over the age of 18 to wear a seat belt when driving or riding in the front seat of a passenger vehicle, which now includes a pickup truck. The driver is also responsible for ensuring that everyone under 17 is buckled in, regardless of whether they are in the front or back seats. Children who are under the age of six and under 40 pounds in weight are required to be in an appropriate child restraint or booster seat on the rear seat of the vehicle.

Most of the questions I am asked regarding the new laws focus on the new gun laws. Basically, the law says that any person who may legally own a firearm may carry a firearm in their home, place of business and vehicle without a permit.

Firearm license holders may carry a weapon anywhere in the state, except:

-- In a government building;

-- In a courthouse;

-- In a place of worship;

-- In a state mental health facility;

-- In a bar, unless the owner of the bar permits the carrying of weapons by license holders;

-- On the premises of a nuclear power facility;

-- Within 150 feet of any polling place;

-- In any school building or on school grounds.

A person may keep their firearm in a locked compartment of their vehicle at any of the above places except nuclear power facilities. Also, a person may approach security or management of any of the above places (except schools and nuclear power facilities) and ask them for directions on removing, securing, storing or temporarily surrendering the weapon.

If you have any questions about these or any other Georgia laws, please feel free to call my office at (229) 430-6508.

Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office for 27 years and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.