Lawmakers in Georgia are looking closer at steps that can be taken to strengthen the state’s laws targeting distracted driving in order to reduce the number of accidents involving electronic distractions.
In 2016, there were more than 1,500 fatalities on Georgia highways, a one-third increase from 2015. It’s not clear how many of those fatalities were directly linked to the use of electronic devices while driving. However, it is very likely that the overall national increase in traffic accident fatalities is directly linked to more motorists using cell phones and texting while driving.
In fact, statistics show that just in last year alone, the Georgia Department of Driver Services issued more than 3,800 citations to motorists who were found using phones while driving. That was an increase of more than 30% from 2015.
Georgia already has laws that prohibit motorists from texting while driving. Under these laws, adult motorists are prohibited from texting while driving, while drivers below 18 with a learner’s permit are banned from using any wireless devices at the wheel. However, officers find it challenging to cite motorists for distracted driving. Currently, the law does not prevent motorists from dialing a phone while driving. That makes it easy for motorists to insist that they were dialing numbers on their phones, and not texting while driving, to avoid a citation.
Another reason for the weak impact of Georgia’s anti-distracted driving laws is the relatively low fines that are imposed. A violation can cost a motorist just $150. Compare that to the hundreds of dollars in fines, not to mention community classes and jail time, that a conviction for drunk driving can rack up.
The Georgia House Study Committee on Distracted Driving is currently hearing suggestions that could help reduce the severity of the problem. The Committee has been holding hearings from several interested parties, including families of victims of accidents involving distracted driving. The Committee has so far discussed an increase in fines for violations, and is also considering proposals that would require motorists to use hands-free devices while driving. The proposals would strengthen the ability of officers to enforce these laws. However, laws mandating hands-free devices while driving are just the tip of the iceberg. What would drastically reduce these behaviors is a law banning the use of all types of electronic communication devices while driving.
Until Georgia lawmakers take up these proposals seriously and enact them into law, it’s important for motorists to keep themselves safe while driving. Switch off your cell phone while driving, and ignore the urge to use your car as an extension of your office. Too many people feel pressured to reply to work texts or calls on their commute, creating dangerous situations for themselves and other motorists.
The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent persons injured in car accidents across Georgia.