The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies 3 types of distracted driving practices:
- Visual (taking your eyes off the road)
- Cognitive (taking your mind off the task of driving)
- Manual (taking your hands off the driving wheel).
Fortunately, texting while driving is illegal in Georgia.
Georgia texting while driving laws and penalties
Prior to 2018, all drivers (with the exception of bus drivers and inexperienced motorists under age 18) were permitted to use a cellphone while driving—as long as they weren’t texting. This law prohibited motorists from using a cellphone or similar wireless device to write, transmit or read text data while driving.
While voice-to-text is still allowed, it’s illegal to operate hands-free technology to write, read or send text messages, e-mails, social media content and other internet data while on the road. GPS and navigation are still permitted; however, it is against the law to watch or record videos or take pictures when behind the wheel.
The law creates exceptions for emergency personnel, drivers responding to emergencies and motorists who are fully parked (this does not include pausing at a red light).
Those who violate the law are subject to a $150 fine and 1 point against their driving record for a first conviction. For a second conviction within 24 months, the fine is $100 and 2 points. For a third or more conviction within 24 months, the fine is $150 and 3 points.
Georgia’s cellphone and texting laws are considered “primary” enforcement laws, which means that an officer can pull a person over for the offense without having to witness some other violation. If the officer sees a person texting and driving, he or she may issue the motorist a citation.
The old law was hard to enforce because officers have to prove that someone was actually texting behind the wheel—not merely dialing a number or speaking on the phone. Furthermore, many motorists would hide their phone when an officer was in sight.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, state troopers only issued an average of 11 citations a month. State records suggest that convictions of the old texting law were minimal in most counties.
Despite this law and the potential penalties, many people continue to engage in this practice.
Georgia distracted driving statistics
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the number of distracted driving crashes in Georgia has risen by more than 400 percent in the last decade.
Looking at the 5-year trend of the top Georgia counties with the most vehicle fatalities, the top 5 counties statewide encompassed the greater Atlanta area—Fulton, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton. While many factors may be contributing to this growing fatality rate in Atlanta, it’s clear that distracted driving plays a big role.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adds that a motorist’s eyes are off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds each time they transmit or receive a text.
Here are some other disturbing and surprising statistics:
- Nearly 303 million people in the United States have cell phones. At any given moment during the daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.
- In 2018, approximately 2,841 people in this country died in crashes that involved a distracted driver, and an estimated additional 400,000 people were injured.
- A study by AAA revealed that electronics use is the leading source of distraction for teen drivers.
- No state bans all cellphone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 23 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers. Georgia is among these states.
- Currently, 48 states (including Georgia), D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but three have primary enforcement.
- 22 states (including Georgia), D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
- Drivers 16-24 are the biggest offenders when it comes to using their phone while driving. In fact, 8 percent of people killed in crashes involving teen drivers in 2017 were killed when those teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash.
Distracted driving prevention and safe driving tips
In an effort to raise awareness about how distracted driving endangers not only distracted drivers, but also their passengers and all other road users, the NHTSA launched its U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign.
This high visibility campaign is centered on aiding law enforcement officers in their efforts to keep distracted drivers off the road, and in particular targets men and women 18 to 34 years old.
The NHTSA gives these 3 distraction-free driving tips to all drivers:
- If you must send or receive a text, pull over to a safe location and park your car first.
- If you have passengers, appoint a “designated texter” to handle all your texting.
- If you can’t resist the temptation to look at it, keep your phone in the trunk.
To prevent tragedies due to distracted driving, the NHTSA also encourage everyone to:
- Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
- Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
- Speak up when a driver uses an electronic device behind the wheel. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the road.
- Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are your best defense against unsafe drivers.
- Be alert for pedestrians and cyclists, especially those who may themselves be distracted.
Injured by a distracted driver? Contact our Georgia auto accident attorneys immediately
If a negligent or distracted driver has injured you, we strongly advise you to contact a knowledgeable car accident attorney near you. Our Georgia injury lawyers can help you assess your accident and evaluate your potential for legal recovery.