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Georgia’s Hands-Free Driving Law Results in 24,862 Citations

Statistically, every Georgia resident will be involved in a traffic collision at least 4 times in their lives. These accidents can range from a minor fender-bender, to a vehicle rollover, and all the way up to a 10-car pileup. In fact, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation, “unsafe behaviors” are responsible for 4 deaths and countless catastrophic injuries every day – and that’s just in our state!

The “unsafe behaviors” that lead to tragic car accidents include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Concentrating on a hands-free device
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Daydreaming
  • Fixing make-up
  • Toying with the radio
  • Weaving between lanes
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Running red lights and stop signs
  • Excessive or last minute braking

Distracted driving is a national epidemic in the United States. Recent advancements in smartphone and interactive computer-mediated technologies have made it difficult for drivers to keep their eyes focused solely on the road. However, the five seconds it takes to send a text or tweet is also enough time to drive the length of a football field; or, in less forgiving scenarios, the perfect amount of time to be responsible for a life-changing – and possibly life-ending – collision.

In 2017, the National Safety Council announced that traffic fatalities “jumped by a third from 2014 to 2016 in Georgia – the fifth-highest increase in the country and more than twice the national average.” Lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and safety advocates all blame smartphones and distracted drivers for this alarming jump in fatalities.

Last month, we discussed the particulars of the Hands-Free Georgia Act. This follow-up blog will address how the texting ban has affected Georgians and distracted driving statistics in the last year. 

Hands-Free Georgia Act

On July 1, 2018, state lawmakers enacted a new law to prohibit text messaging and handheld cellphone-use for all drivers. The “Hands-Free Georgia Act” makes it illegal to write, send, or read any text-based communication via text messages, instant messages, emails, and/or Internet data while operating a motor vehicle. The distracted driving law also makes it unlawful for a driver to physically hold or support a hand-held or wireless device with any part of their body.

The texting ban applies to the following devices and more:

  • Cellphones
  • Laptops
  • iPods
  • Tablets
  • Messaging devices

As a note, Georgia law also prohibits drivers from watching or recording videos while driving.

It has been exactly once year since Georgia House Bill 673 was first enacted, leaving many to wonder if there has been a significant decrease in the number of traffic accidents in our state. While fatal accidents are reportedly down, the Georgia State Patrol believes that we may need to wait until 2020 to get reliable accident and fatality statistics.

Interestingly, there has been an increasein the number of traffic citations issued since the law went into effect:

  • July 2018 – December 2018: 8,389 citations
  • January 2019: 2,208 citations
  • February 2019: 2,049 citations
  • March 2019: 2,820 citations
  • April 2019: 3,873 citations
  • May 2019: 2,988 citations
  • June 2019: 2,535 citations

It would be nice to think that these 24,862 citations represent 24,862 Georgians who have forsworn distracted driving and cellphone use in the car. However, as Adrienne Haney of ALIVE explains, “Police and traffic safety advocates say that it’s too soon to declare the Hands-Free Georgia Act a success. They say it may be years before a clear picture of the law’s impact emerges. And it will take a sustained campaign of education and enforcement to pry our phones away from our hands while we’re driving.”

At the same time, Robert Hartwig, a professor at the University of South Carolina, believes that this law is making a difference. During an interview, he told Haney that traffic fatalities in Georgia fell 2.2% by the end of 2018, and that insurance collision and property damage claims are also falling.

Have You Been Injured by a Negligent Driver?

Contact the auto accident attorneys at Pratt Clay, LLC if you require legal representation after a collision. Our skilled legal team can litigate on your behalf in court and help you recover damages that facilitate your recovery.

Call Pratt Clay, LLC at (404) 998-5258 to schedule a free consultation today.