Sheriff Clinton addresses dangers of distracted driving

Sheriff's Desk

From the Desk of Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton:

Over the years I have often commented that I wished most people had experience riding a motorcycle, as most riders learn very quickly to pay attention to other drivers and take responsibility for their own safety.  I bought my first street bike in 1987 and over the years the skills I learned that first year or so have continued to serve me well.  Of course, I have continued to learn, but the basics remain the same.  I realize that most people never own or even ride a motorcycle, nor do they have the desire.  Some even think those of us who do ride should not.  That being said, I thought I would offer some tips that apply to all vehicles that, if practiced each time you drive, should improve your safety and those around you.  These tips apply not only to motorcycles, but can and should be used by any driver of any vehicle.

Sheriff Chris Clinton Towns County GA

Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton

Driving distracted is a serious problem on our roads today.  We have all sorts of laws addressing it, two more recent ones on everyone’s mind are texting while driving and hands free driving, but the real issue is being distracted by anything.  One should always be alert and scanning the roadway ahead, paying close attention to what is behind and on either side of you, as well as your instruments.  Scanning keeps you from getting locked onto something for too long which causes accidents.  According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), one should never remain focused on something for over four seconds at a time.    In my opinion, four seconds is a very long time to not be scanning.  While scanning, one should always be looking as far as possible down the road for potential hazards.  Be mindful of potential hazards and where your potential “escape routes” are located if you need to avoid a collision with a distracted driver.  By knowing what is around you, you have a better chance of finding a safe escape route.  It doesn’t do much good to avoid one collision only to create another.

Following too closely is a problem I see often.  Georgia’s Emergency Vehicle Operations course advises law enforcement officers to leave a two-second reactionary gap between your vehicle and the one in front.  I follow MSF’s rule of remaining three to five seconds behind the vehicle in front.  The reasons are:  This gives more time to react, especially if you were looking elsewhere when the trouble ahead occurs.  It also allows you to see much further down the road and watch for hazards.  I often see people so close that they can’t possibly avoid striking the vehicle in front of them if it were to strike something.  In that situation the second driver can’t see anything except the vehicle in front of them and haven’t left time to react if that driver makes the mistake of striking something ahead of them.    Simply pick out a spot ahead and as the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you cross it count to yourself one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.  Make sure you get to three full seconds at least.  Try it and notice how much more you can see what is going on down the road.

Another piece of advice is to not drive faster that you can see, regardless of the speed limit because that might be posted too high.   By this I am talking about curves, hills, or any other thing that prevents us from seeing further.  When approaching a curve, etc., one should only travel as fast as they “can see.”  When entering a curve or topping a hill etc., make sure you can safely stop the vehicle in the distance that you can see.  We can’t know what is beyond our field of vision.  Often people start into a curve already pushing the speed, only to find it suddenly becomes a sharper turn than they can negotiate at that speed.  Heading west off Clayton mountain, there is a smashed up guard rail.  We work a lot of wreck there for this very reason.  People enter that curve faster that they can see to drive.  While that is bad enough and some have been seriously hurt, it could be worse.   I’ve witnessed a lot of tragedy in this profession, much of it avoidable by taking a little extra care.  Maybe it isn’t that the curve is too sharp, maybe you know the road well, but what if someone’s child is chasing a ball, but you couldn’t see that.  Wouldn’t we want to be able to stop in time?  I use that example because like many officers, I have had to witness the horror when someone drives faster than they can see while distracted.  A mistake like that can often be avoided beforehand, but can never be called back.  Stay safe, friends!


Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at

Local law enforcement explains Hands-Free Georgia Act

Hands free Georgia act

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Hands-Free Georgia Act takes effect July 1, and local law enforcement plans to uphold the newly-enacted state mandate. The new law strictly prohibits drivers from holding a cellular phone or stand-alone electronic device in their hands, or touching any part of their body, while operating a vehicle on Georgia roadways. Motorists will not be permitted to write, read, or send text messages nor emails, use social media, or otherwise access internet data. Drivers will be allowed use of GPS and navigational devices, however, via hands-free methods. While motorists will still be permitted to stream music through apps, the activation of such devices, changing of songs, or streaming of any type of video is prohibited. In addition, recording or broadcasting videos also constitutes a violation of law. Mobile devices may be used in lawfully parked vehicles which does not include traffic signals or stop signs.

“Hiawassee Police Department will certainly be enforcing the hands-free law,” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told FetchYourNews, “It’s definitely an issue we’ve seen, and it’s a growing issue that we’ve been looking at.” Smith explained that the penalty for first-time citations includes a $50 fine, a one-point penalty against the driver’s license, and states that the purchase of a hands-free device, such as a Bluetooth device or a stationary mount for electronics, prior to an appearance in court, will allow a defendant to enter a not guilty plea. Subsequent violations carry stiffer penalties.

“It’s becoming a habit we don’t think twice about since we have been talking on our phones while driving for more than three decades, and it is going to take time for all of us to stop automatically reaching for the phone when it rings,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Communication Director Robert Hydrick said, “If you want to talk on your phone or use GPS while driving, now is the time to implement those measures so hands-free will become the instinctive thing to do.”

Two-year studies revealed a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities within the 15 states that have implemented similar hands-free driving laws.

Additional information on the Hands-Free Georgia Act can be found at


Robin H. Webb

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