Folks from Etowah County often travel to and through Georgia for a variety of reasons (that don’t always involve Atlanta). So, earlier this year we issued a warning about the new hands-free law that took effect July 1 in our neighboring state.

It prohibits drivers not just from holding a cellphone, but from having it in contact with any part of their bodies while behind the wheel of a vehicle on the state’s roadways, unless they are making an emergency call. Drivers can only make or take non-emergency calls via speakerphone, a wired connection to their vehicle, or regular or Bluetooth headphones, and of course can’t send or receive text or email messages. (All of those things are fine if you’re stopped, but being stuck in traffic — cough, cough, Atlanta, cough, cough — doesn’t count as being “legally parked.”) GPS and voice to text usage is permitted.

Our warning came with unequivocal support for the law — the same support we’ll deliver should Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, follow through on his intention to introduce a similar law in the Alabama Legislature’s 2019 session.

McClendon told ABC 33/40 last month that the Georgia law appears to be doing what it’s supposed to do — lessen the number of crashes caused by drivers distracted by gadgets — and he has the same goal for Alabama. He said other legislators are considering similar bills, which is a strong signal that some kind of restriction will be on the books.

Cue the teeth gnashing:

• “It’s just a money-making scheme!” Well, the monetary penalties in the Georgia law are pretty tame for traffic fines: $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $150 for other offenses, although drivers also will be docked points on their licenses. Call us mean, but we’d like to see a little more sting.

• “It’s the nanny state trying to protect us from ourselves!” Well, there’s a little bit of that involved; people in civilized societies generally don’t sit around and say “Knock yourselves out killing yourselves” even if a bit of free will is involved. We’re more interested in protecting everyone else from folks who can’t abide by the No. 1 expectation that comes with being handed a driver’s license: “Pay attention to what you’re doing while you’re in control of a vehicle.” (Honk if you’ve had to dodge someone obliviously lost in an electronic haze.)

• “What if it’s an emergency?” Well, the Georgia law has an emergency call exemption, and we trust any law passed in Alabama will carry one as well. Perhaps, though, there needs to be a more precise definition of “emergency.” We think that word ought to be saved for something cataclysmic — when someone is hurt, sick, dying or in serious trouble. It ought not apply to, say, Alabama or Auburn scoring a touchdown, what someone’s done to make you mad or the latest office, school or church gossip. That can wait until you get off the roadways. (A true “here’s your sign moment”: A woman in Minnesota crashed her vehicle on an interstate in October, after being seen crossing over lanes and not just driving on the road’s shoulder but the grass adjacent to the shoulder. She was watching Netflix on her cellphone, which was on the passenger seat. Ain’t no TV show or movie that important.)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 hurt every day in vehicle crashes involving distracted driving.

That’s the bottom line here; no other factors are relevant.

We wish everyone would do the right thing without any compulsion. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic.

Why not go ahead and try the hands-free route — the hardware isn’t that expensive these days — and get used to it before the hammer arrives? It might actually be liberating.