Crash spotlights loophole allowing emergency workers to text - CBS46 News

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Crash spotlights loophole allowing emergency workers to text while driving

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Every day at least nine people are killed and over a thousand injured due to distracted driving.

"You are not supposed to do that," driver Fran Cowart said.

It's become a dangerous epidemic on our roads.

"Oh yeah I see it all the time," driver Sam Tidwell said.

The message is clear. Texting while driving is illegal in Georgia. You're not even supposed to do it at red lights.

"I won't say that I haven't ever done it, but I try to make a habit of not texting while driving," Cowart said.

The government's website, distraction.gov, says the law applies to all drivers, but we've learned that doesn't truly mean all drivers.

Fulton County deputy Kevin Morton said he uses his car computer constantly while driving and there's nothing that says he can't. In fact, in Georgia, it's legal for all emergency personnel to text and drive.

"It's one of the tools that you have to have along with my gun, my radio and my ammunition," Morton said.

Earlier this year, a Grady ambulance driver crashed while texting and driving on the job.

The other car was totaled. The ambulance driver was charged for following too closely.

State Senator Jack Murphy played a key role in establishing Georgia's texting and driving law three years ago.

"I had forgotten that we put that exemption in exactly like it's stated in there," Murphy said. "They're not supposed to be texting on their cell phones unless it's an emergency situation."

As executive director of the Georgia Sheriff's Association, Terry Norris recognizes the safety concern, but still believes it's a necessity.

"It's not as if we're texting critical information and driving at the same time. We're receiving more than we're texting," Norris said.

Norris also points out confidential information can be sent via text that cannot be broadcast over the radio, information he believes could at times mean the difference between life and death.

The ambulance driver was fired, but only because Grady has an internal policy against texting while driving. Murphy believes it might be time to revisit Georgia's law.

"I'm going to review the bill and the law as it now stands and see if we need to tweak that some and change it," Murphy said.

As for Georgia drivers, how do they feel about allowing emergency personnel to text and drive?

"I don't have a problem with that," Tidwell said.

"No, I disagree with that, it's the same risk," driver Catherine said.

So what do you think? Should first responders be allowed to text and drive? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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