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Teen driving commission recommends tougher penalties for texting-while-driving

An all-teen board appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal has recommended major changes to teen driver education strategies and asked for harsher penalties for teens who break Georgia’s law banning motorists from sending text messages and using smartphones while on the road. 

Members of the Governor’s Commission on Teen Driving have also asked lawmakers to ban handheld phone use for all Georgia drivers. 

Commission members presented the recommendations to Georgia lawmakers, advocates for highway safety and public safety leaders Monday.

 The meeting was the final one for the commission before the end of the school year.

The 22-member commission, comprised of all teenagers, is administered through the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and is the first of its kind in the United States. 

The commission’s ultimate goal is to discover strategies that reduce the number of teen crashes, injuries and fatalities on Georgia’s highways. While preliminary data shows that the number of fatal crashes involving 16 and 17-year-olds declined in 2012, vehicle crashes remain the number one cause of death for teenagers in Georgia. 

The commission’s recommendations are the first organized step toward a statewide discussion of policies that might improve that statistic. 

“This is just the beginning,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “We are proud to be the first state in the union to make sure that teen drivers are in the forefront of a discussion that will ultimately change their lives.” 

Among other recommendations presented Monday, board members urged policy makers to consider updating the state’s current Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program to reflect other factors that cause drivers to be impaired, such as sending text messages or using a smartphone while behind the wheel. 

Board members recommended that driver’s education courses and permitting tests for Georgia drivers include a greater focus on the dangers of distracted driving and texting while driving. 

For those who continue to text and drive after a first citation, the board recommends a graduated punishment system similar to the one set up for repeat offenders of Georgia’s laws against driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

Appointed by Gov. Deal in October, the commission has worked for five months to help Gov. Deal develop a statewide strategy for educating teen drivers on the risks and consequences associated with driving while distracted, texting while driving and driving while impaired by alcohol.

The group is expected to reconvene in the fall.

Powerball jackpot at $260M for Wednesday

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ATLANTA – The jackpot for Powerball is in high gear, reaching an estimated $260 million to a single annuity winner for Wednesday’s drawing. The excitement is spreading statewide as lucky Georgia Lottery players won big from Saturday’s drawing.

 

The jackpot has grown since Feb. 9 and has rolled 11 times.

 

Three Georgia Lottery players have won big. One lucky ticket worth $1 million was sold at Jet Food Store #0054 in Macon. Another Powerball ticket worth $40,000 was sold at 301 N. Package Store in Jesup. A ticket worth $10,000 was sold at Chevron Food Mart in Atlanta.

 

Powerball offers two payment options: the $260 million jackpot prize paid over 29 years in 30 graduated payments, or the cash option, which is approximately $161 million.

 

Powerball tickets are $2 per play.

 

As with all other Georgia Lottery games, proceeds from Powerball will benefit education in the state of Georgia.

 

Since its first year, the Georgia Lottery Corp. has returned more than $14 billion to the state of Georgia for education. All Georgia Lottery profits go to pay for specific educational programs, including Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship Program and Georgia’s Pre-K Program. More than 1.4 million students have received HOPE, and more than 1.2 million 4-year-olds have attended the statewide, voluntary prekindergarten program.

 

POWERBALL FAST FACTS

Draw Date: March 20, 2013

Estimated Jackpot Amount: $260 million
Annuity Amount: Jackpot prize paid over 29 years in 30 graduated payments
Cash Option Amount: Approximately $161 million
Cost to Play: $2 per play; an additional $1 per play to add the Power Play multiplier
Drawings: 11 p.m. (ET) every Wednesday and Saturday
Overall Odds of Winning Any Prize: Approximately 1:32
Odds of Winning Jackpot Prize: Approximately 1:175 million
Date Jackpot Began Rolling: Feb. 9, 2013
Number of Rolls: 11
Last Winning Jackpot Ticket: Feb. 6, 2013 – $217 million jackpot (Virginia winner)
#1 Powerball Jackpot: Nov. 28, 2012 – $588 million jackpot (Arizona and Missouri winners)

For more information on the Georgia Lottery Corp. and Powerball, please visit:

www.galottery.comwww.lotterybenefitsgeorgians.com and www.powerball.com

 

Play Responsibly – It’s All About Fun!

Live video of peregrine falcons set up by DNR

 

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One of the SunTrust Plaza falcons.

 

ATLANTA, Ga. (March 13, 2013) – Atlanta’s fast-flying falcons are on the nest, and the world is watching again – but this time via video streamed at up to HD quality!

 

A new web camera operated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources offers a fascinating look into a peregrine falcons nest more than 50 stories high in downtown Atlanta.

 

The peregrines began nesting in early March and already have three eggs. The new camera is streaming the nest 24/7 on Ustream, at and at the Georgia Wildlife's FalconCam.

 

Jim Ozier, program manager with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, said the web cam is “a wonderful opportunity for Georgians and wildlife enthusiasts around the world to witness in detail the life history of this once very rare and elusive species. It's great to be able to share and build upon this success story."

 

Gas prices stabilize across the country

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Georgia, March 18- Average retail gasoline prices in Georgia have fallen 5.5 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.56/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 5,883 gas outlets in Georgia. This compares with the national average that has fallen 1.9 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.65/g, according to gasoline price website GasBuddy.com. 

Including the change in gas prices in Georgia during the past week, prices yesterday were 14.9 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 12.5 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has decreased 4.1 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 15.0 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago. 

"The national average has seemingly found some relative stability in the last week," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "And while the national average hasn't seen much movement, some areas of the country have seen volatility continue, mainly in the Great Lakes states where prices may again be poised to rise in the next couple of days as wholesale prices reverberate as refineries continue their maintenance schedules and the progressive switch over to summer gasoline continues," DeHaan said.

About GasBuddy

GasBuddy operates GeorgiaGasPrices.com and over 250 similar websites that track gasoline prices at over 140,000 gasoline stations in the United States and Canada. In addition, GasBuddy offers a free smartphone app which has been downloaded over 25 million times to help motorists find the lowest gasoline prices in their area.

First Baptist Church of Woodstock opens satellite campus in Hill City

 

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Woodstock Baptist/Jasper Campus Pastor Eddie Rhodes preaching at the former Mt. Hope Community Church in Hill City. Mt. Hope will become the first satellite campus of Woodstock First Baptist Church located off Hwy. 92.

 

Two weeks ago, the Sunday morning service was a little different for members of Mt. Hope Community Church on Hwy 53 West, located directly across from Hill City Elementary.

Emblazoned on a screen behind the pulpit was “Woodstock Church/Jasper,” the church’s new name, and Eddie Rhodes from First Baptist Church of Woodstock was introducing himself to the congregation as the new campus pastor.

“Their leadership came to us,” said Woodstock First Baptist Church Pastor Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “They came to us and they said they may lose what they had. They were at a point where they couldn’t pay their pastor. They could pay rent but there was no money for ministry and they needed help.” 

 

See more of the megachurch's plans in Pickens County in this week's e-edition.