The Hands-Free Georgia Act became law on July 1, 2018. Like every state, Georgia was contending with a surge in traffic accidents that were caused by distracted drivers who were engaged with their mobile devices behind the wheel of their car. The new law has worked to ban the use of hands-free wireless devices when one is driving. Now that the law has been in effect for slightly over a year, we can analyze whether the law has worked as intended to help lower the number of traffic accidents in the state and look at what the path needs to be going forward.
Distracted Driving Causes Fatalities
Georgia experienced the same problem locally that was occurring nationally prior to passing the statute. From 2006 to 2016, traffic fatalities in the state increased by approximately one third. Accidents involving distracted drivers tend to have more serious injuries and a higher chance of fatalities than other accidents. This is because drivers generally are not able to take any measures to either mitigate or avoid the accident since they are not fully focused on driving. As a result, these accidents occur at a higher rate of speed than other accidents, and that makes the accident worse than it otherwise would have been.
Putting a Stop to Texting and Driving
Georgia took several steps before passing this legislation to try to limit distracted driving. However, these steps were largely piecemeal and incremental and did not stop the increase in road fatalities. These laws only banned the use of mobile devices for teen drivers and not for the general populace. In addition, the laws were difficult to enforce and were largely ineffective.
Attention turned to finding a more comprehensive solution that was applicable to all drivers. The Georgia General Assembly passed the statute last year that banned the use of hands-free mobile devices while driving. Now, drivers are not allowed to handle their phones while behind the wheel. The legislation prohibits the following among drivers on Georgia’s roads:
- Holding a mobile device or resting it on any part of the body
- Texting, emailing, or using social media while driving
- Watching videos while driving (GPS/Navigational videos are allowed)
- Watching a video while driving (continuously running dash cams are allowed)
- Using their phone to control or connect to music while driving
Georgia’s law is particularly tough in that drivers will receive points for a violation on their first offense. The second offense means that a driver will receive two points. Many states give drivers a monetary fine as opposed to giving them points with the citation. In Georgia, nearly 25,000 citations have been issued in the year since the legislation was passed.
- First conviction – $50 fine and one point assessed against a driver’s license
- Second conviction – $100 fine and two points assessed against a driver’s license
- Third conviction – $150 fine and three points assessed against a driver’s license
The second and third convictions only apply if they are within 24 months of the first conviction.
Decrease in Car Accident Deaths
Georgia police have begun to step up enforcement of these laws. At the end of 2018, the police had largely shifted from issuing warning tickets to handing out actual penalties. Statistics have shown that the law has begun to have an impact on the amount of traffic fatalities on Georgia roads.
Many drivers have habits that have been ingrained in them by many years of using their mobile devices behind the wheel. These habits are difficult for drivers to change on a dime, even now that the conduct has been made illegal. Therefore, it will take some time for this law to have its full desired effect. However, even a small collective change in drivers’ behavior will be enough to help lower the number of traffic fatalities on Georgia’s roads. In fact, the number of traffic fatalities in Georgia fell slightly over two percent last year, even though the law was only in effect for the second half of the year.
In addition to the decrease in fatalities, actual data also showed a drop in distracted driving. According to a study by TrueMotion, distracted driving behaviors were reduced to 15.4 percent from 19.5 percent before the law was passed. However, studies done in other states that have passed these laws have shown that the drop may be temporary.
What remains to be seen is whether the law will continue to have an effect on the public’s habits. Police officers in the state have been quoted as saying that they have seen drivers begin to pick their old habits back up after an initial burst of compliance with the law. Psychology dictates that many people make attempts to follow a new law that has just been passed and is the subject of publicity. However, as time goes on, they begin to become more relaxed in their compliance. As a result, some have argued for making the law even tougher by raising the fine for the first offense.
Have You Been Injured by a Distracted Driver?
Those who have been injured by distracted drivers may have a viable personal injury claim against the driver whose carelessness caused the accident. The attorneys at the Eichholz Law Firm have broad experience in representing those who have been injured in an auto accident. They can file a car accident lawsuit on your behalf and will fight for you throughout the process Speak with a lawyer today to learn about receiving a fair settlement or taking the case to court if necessary.