KENNESAW — Cobb motorists were issued 101 citations Tuesday morning during an undercover police sting targeting distracted drivers at the intersection of Blue Springs Road and Cobb Parkway.
About 30 Cobb, Kennesaw and Acworth police officers, including a handful posing undercover as construction workers, were involved in the three-hour sting between 9 a.m. and midday.
In that time they issued 65 citations for violations of Georgia’s hands-free law, which came into effect last July and which prohibits drivers from holding phones or having them anywhere on their body while driving, even if the driver is stopped at a light.
The law allows pairing of a hands-free device, such as a Bluetooth earpiece or Bluetooth pairing through the vehicle’s speakers, to make or receive calls. It also allows the driver one touch to accept or decline a call and to mount phones on the windshield or center consoles.
Police also issued 16 citations to people not wearing seat belts, seven citations for license violations and 13 citations for other infractions.
One person was arrested during the sting on a license violation.
Officer Sydney Melton, a Cobb County police spokeswoman, said the focus of the operation was enforcement of the hands-free law.
She said data collated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows 3,166 people died nationwide in 2017 because of distracted driving.
“A lot of these officers today working this are the ones responsible for investigating serious injury and fatal accidents, so they’ve got an invested interest in this today,” Melton said Tuesday morning at the briefing for officers involved in the sting. “This is definitely a way for us to try to prevent this,” she said.
Drivers issued citations for violating the hands-free law were seen by the undercover officers to be texting while driving, scrolling through websites on their cellphones and talking on the phone.
The undercover officers, wearing high-visibility vests emblazoned with Cobb County Transportation and Kennesaw Public Works logos, were stationed at all entry and exit points of the intersection.
They watched for distracted drivers and radioed information about violators to uniformed officers lying in wait at nearby businesses and further along the roadside, who then apprehended offenders.
Within minutes of the sting starting, flashing blue lights could be seen in several locations near the intersection, where drivers had been pulled over and issued citations.
Police invited local media to the operation briefing at 8:30 a.m. in the overflow parking area of NorthStar Church on Blue Springs Road.
Media were also told where the sting was happening in order to document it.
“Local media outlets were invited to this operation and did not hinder the operation in any way,” Melton said. “This was an opportunity to help spread awareness of the hands-free law and the Cobb County Police Department’s efforts to enforce this law as a method of prevention.”
Tuesday’s sting follows a similar operation in Marietta on June 19, which resulted in 170 citations being issued over a three-hour period.
That operation occurred at the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Roswell Street.
Melton said it’s “possible” Cobb police will conduct more undercover operations to target distracted drivers in future, as these two proved successful.
The penalties for violating the hands-free law are administered on a sliding scale.
The first offense may be waived by a traffic court if the motorist proves in court that they have installed Bluetooth capability since the violation.
The second offense carries a penalty of $50 and one point on the driver’s license, while the third offense is $100 and two points, and the fourth is $150 and three points.