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No-texting law begins Thursday

ALBANY, Ga. -- Spread the word, but don't text it if you are driving.

Two new distracted driver laws take effect in Georgia tomorrow. One law prohibits drivers from "using wireless telecommunications devices for writing, sending or receiving text messages while operating a motor vehicle," according to the website drivinglaws.org.

The other prohibits a driver under 18 years old with a driver permit or a class D license from using a wireless communication device.

Breaking either law can result in arrest and a $150 fine with a point put on the license.

"This only applies to drivers on the road," Albany Police Department Sgt. William Dowdell said. "If you pull over and park

in a parking lot with your motor running

it is OK."

Neither the Albany Police Department nor the Dougherty County Police reported any fatalities due to texting while driving, officials said. There have been vehicle crashes with damages due to drivers' texting.

"This was before the law went into effect," county police Ptl. Steve Graffam said. "But, just after an accident, drivers have admitted they were texting just before the accident."

Police officers from both departments said that enforcement could be problematic because of the way the law is written.

Under the law, a driver can dial a number and talk on the phone, Dowdell said. It could be difficult for an officer to tell if a driver is dialing or texting, he added.

Graffam said that officers would be on the lookout for driving behavior that is associated with texting, such as swerving or slamming on brakes.

"A driver could be texting then look up and see he is too close to another vehicle, then slam on brakes," Graffam said. "We have gotten good responses from cell companies when we subpoena them about texting times and records."

With the evidence that a driver was texting just before a crash from the driver's cell phone company, it would be easier to prove the charge than just by the officer's observation, Graffam said.

The law and the penalties aren't the point, officers said. The point is to keep the roads safe. Text messaging is banned for drivers in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

"Safety is our main priority," Graffam said. "That is our priority for all drivers. We will enforce the law to its full extent."