ATLANTA - A state lawmaker has deleted a weekend Facebook post, amid outcry he recorded the video while driving, breaking Georgia’s new hands-free law.
Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), who was an outspoken opponent of the law, posted the video on Saturday. He was applauding the fiscal success story behind the new 75/575 express lanes.
“I’m excited to be driving down the Northwest Expressway manage lane project,” Setzler is heard saying while his camera captures the top of his steering wheel. “This is the day it first opened --Saturday, Sept. 8th.”
The video captured the attention of Hands-Free Georgia advocates like Kathi O’Brien, a Woodstock mother who lost her son Tyler Durden to distracted driving 10 years ago.
“Just about every comment was ‘How could you be doing this?’ Really? I mean come on. It’s the law. Why are you above it?’” O’Brien told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr.
After the post was flooded with debate, O’Brien said she noticed it was deleted by Sunday. Carr received a copy of the video from another viewer who recorded it from her screen.
“Well there was back and forth about ‘well, maybe he wasn’t holding the phone,’ but the phone was bouncing up and down,” said O’Brien. “It was very clear it wasn’t on a mount and it was also on the driver’s side, and he was narrating.”
O’Brien and families who have experienced loss of life due to distracted driving, challenged Setzler as lawmakers debated the Hands-Free bill this year. In February, she listened to him address his colleagues at the Capitol, saying accident data did not support the legislation.
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“I support the effort cracking down on this," Setzler said as he mocked texting on his phone. “But friends, this bill unequivocally cracks down on this (holding phone to his ear), and makes every Georgia (citizen) driving down the four-lane highway a lawbreaker.”
“There will be an effort in the future to dial this thing back because this has been a dramatic overreach,” Setzler said in a WSB Radio interview hours before the law went into effect in July.
An assistant to Setzler in state capitol office took a message from Carr regarding the post, and said she would get it right to the representative. Setzler did not immediately return a request for comment via that message or an e-mail sent early Monday afternoon.
“It’s not just about putting others at risk, but what might he do to his own family? O’Brien asked. “Then he would have to live with the pain that all of us are living with.”
“What do you want to hear from him at this point?” Carr asked O’Brien.
“Apologize to his constituents, and put his phone down,” she replied. “Be safe on the road. What if he had hit one of us who is obeying (the law)?
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