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Do Hand-Free Laws Stop Distracted Driving? Not Necessarily.

It has been over a year since Georgia’s Hands-Free Law went into effect on July 1, 2018.  Since then, a few other states have joined Georgia in implementing bans on hand-held devices while driving.  It may be surprising to know, however, that while almost all states in the U.S. have no-texting-and-driving laws, only about one-third of the states in the U.S. have a complete cell phone ban while operating a motor vehicle.  But do these hands-free laws stop distracted driving, and more importantly, reduce the risk of deadly car accidents?  Not necessarily.

Distracted driving is the number one cause of fatal traffic accidents nationwide. A driver can be distracted due to a number of causes besides just using a cell phone.  Any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road, even for a second, counts as distracted driving.  This can include eating or drinking in the car, putting on makeup and even changing the radio station.  Statistics on hands-free laws have shown that even though the number of drivers using cell phones may be down, the number of car accidents is not.  However, cell phone use while driving has been known to cause the most deadly results of the distracted driving car accidents.

Even with hands-free laws around the country, statistics show that man drivers are still using their phones while driving.   It is still pretty common to see drivers using their phones while stopped at red lights at intersections or stuck in traffic. And a fair number of drivers actively use their cell phones while actually driving on the roads.  Drivers who engage in active cell phone use while driving are usually the ones that engage in other high risk behaviors while driving as well.

Research has shown that there is a clear link between cell phone use and a high crash risk.  In fact, the crash risk while using a cell phone while driving is two to six times higher than when a driver is not distracted.  This is because a driver’s ability to react to changing road conditions, such as lane changes, safe following distance, or even emergency situations, is delayed due the cognitive distraction of using a cell phone.  Even the act of having a phone conversation while driving causes a driver to have a delayed reaction to road cues.

In order for hands-free laws have a significant impact on crash numbers, law enforcement must consistently enforce the cell phone bans.  In Georgia, there has been an increase in the number of tickets issued by law enforcement since the Hands-Free Law took effect.  And the number of traffic fatalities due to distracted drivers has been down slightly since last year.  If a law enforcement official suspects that cell phone use was a contribution factor of the cause of the car accident, they may be able to obtain phone records of the phone records of the offending driver, particularly in the case if a person was killed in the accident.

Some of the best ways to protect yourself from being a distracted driver is to turn your phone on silent, download a safety app and put your phone somewhere where it is out of reach while you are driving.  This will also help you keep an eye out on the road for other distracted drivers so you can hopefully avoid being in a catastrophic accident.

If you, or your loved one, has been injured in an accident caused by a negligent distracted driver, talk to an Atlanta car accident lawyer at the Katz Law Firm to find out how to recover compensation for your losses.