Houston & Peach

‘Is it worth it?’ Perry mayor asks after texting-driving simulation

Check out this texting-driving simulator

Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth experienced some near misses before he finally crashed in this texting and driving simulator.
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Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth experienced some near misses before he finally crashed in this texting and driving simulator.

Perry Mayor Jimmy Faircloth took the wheel of a texting and driving simulator Monday.

In the simulation, the driver has several near misses from texting and driving before finally crashing. The last scene is an outer-body experience of the driver looking down at the crash scene.

The AT&T simulator was set up for a day-long state House committee on distracted driving that met at Central Georgia Technical College in Warner Robins.

The simulator, part of AT&T’s ‘It Can Wait’ campaign against texting and driving, uses virtual-reality Google Glasses.

“As careful as we all think that we drive, it does change your perspective,” Faircloth said of the simulator. “It brings forward the consequences of our decisions more than anything else.

“And most people don’t think of that,” Faircloth said. “It’s just cellphone, it’s just a quick text, or I’m going to accept this call. Well, even accepting a call may be technically legal, but it’s still a distraction ... So is it worth it, you have to ask yourself?”

Houston County sheriff’s Deputy Eric Farris was among midstate law enforcement officers who spoke to the committee.

“The problem is that I have drivers holding the cellphone in their hand and they’re driving down the roads and highways of this state,” Farris said.

Georgia law bans texting and driving, but not holding cellphones. A House bill to require hands-free use of electronic devices was rejected by lawmakers in the 2017 session.

But Brian Ortiz-Moreno, whose 20-year-old son lost his life after sending a text while driving, wants state lawmakers to pass such a law.

Ortiz-Moreno was among those who have lost family members to distracted-driving crashes who spoke to the committee. He shared his story earlier with The Telegraph.

The committee is now in its fact-finding process, with plans to have its report for the General Assembly completed in mid-December, said state Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, committee chairman.

If the committee determines that legislation is warranted to address distracted driving, it will be introduced in January, Carson said

Two of the committee members are from Houston County: state Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, and state Rep. Heath Clark, R-Warner Robins.

Also, AT&T announced that the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association won its video competition among first responders to promote the company’s “It Can Wait” campaign.

The video, which features NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., was produced by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

A $15,000 award from AT&T for the winning video will be donated to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes, said Terry Norris, executive director of the sheriffs’ association.

Fatalities on Georgia roadways spiked by a third from 2014 to 2016, with distracted driving, speeding and alcohol thought to be among the leading factors, according to the National Transportation Safety Council. In 2016 alone, more than 1,500 people died in crashes on state roadways.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser

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