DULUTH -- One of the toughest-to-enforce laws in the state was the subject of a two-day undercover crackdown by Gwinnett County police this week.
Gwinnett police on Tuesday and Wednesday performed a crackdown along Pleasant Hill Road with an unmarked SUV and three officers who were positioned to see if motorists texted or transferred data with their cellphone. Gwinnett Police Cpl. Jake Smith said officers caught eight people between 8 a.m. and noon on Tuesday, and nine people between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
The officers used a point-and-shoot camera, and then alerted officers in two marked cars abut a block back.
"It is very difficult to enforce, so our guys thought, 'Let's go out and see what we can catch in an unmarked car,'" Smith said.
At least half of the people who were seen texting while driving said they weren't doing it, Smith said.
A violation results in a $150 fine and one point on a person's driving record.
There are two laws related to cellphone use while driving, HB 23 and SB 360. HB 23 bans both talking on a phone and texting while driving for motorists with a learner's permit under the age of 18. SB 360 bans texting while driving for all motorists no matter their age.
The law states that if a person is manipulating, or transferring data at all, such as email, texting or Internet data, it's a violation, Smith said. That includes GPS devices, if information is being sent or received.
"If you're mounting it to the dash, or looking at from time to time, that's fine," Smith said. "But you can't be fooling with it."
Gwinnett officers write a large bulk of all of the state's texting-while-driving tickets, Smith said.
The Department of Driver Services has recorded 2,052 statewide convictions of the law -- including 28 teenagers -- through June 3, said spokeswoman Susan Sports.
Smith said officers realize the occurence of people texting while driving, especially at red lights, happens virtually all the time. But in a regular patrol car, it's nearly impossible to see if another driver is using their cellphone.
While the law is tough to enforce, Smith said it's also difficult to prove, and many drivers put their phone in their pocket, or said they looked at the radio, hit the brakes and crashed.
Smith said police don't check drivers' phones for a record of information transferred, but some use also isn't recorded if a crash happens before a message is sent.
As for more crackdowns, Smith said giving 17 citations in 11 hours is "pretty telling," but also doesn't mean it will be a regular operation because of the level of manpower needed.
"It may not be a one-time thing," Smith said. "But it's not something we'll do every day either."
Smith said officers may send information collected during the crackdown to the police department's liaison to the capitol ahead of the upcoming legislative session.