The Dangers of Distracted Driving in Georgia
Distracted driving is now one of the number one causes of car accidents in Georgia and across the state. Distraction.org, the United States government's website dedicated to distracted driving, reports that over 3,000 people are killed in distracted driving related accidents each year. The actual number of distracted driving related fatalities could be far higher because researchers believe that distracted driving accidents as a whole go underreported. Driver distraction is a threat to every road user in Georgia and safety officials are fighting to reduce distracted driving rates before the problem becomes even larger.
At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, our Atlanta Automobile Accident Attorneys understand the grave dangers associated with distracted driving. As such, our firm is committed to ending texting and driving, along with other distracting behaviors. We sponsor a number of anti-distracted driving campaigns, such as our "Don't Text & Drive Campaign." Below, we continue our look at distracted driving in Georgia, including a look at a recent severe automobile accident, Georgia's distracted driving laws, and frequently asked questions about distracted driving in the state.
Distracted Driving at a Glance
The following facts and statistics, offered by distraction.gov, highlight the significance of the problem of distracted driving:
- In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and another 431,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers;
- Ten percent of all teen drivers who were involved in fatal accidents were distracted at the time of the crash;
- At any given moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using their cellphones or other electronic devices while driving;
- An Erie Insurance distracted driving survey found that drivers self-report engaging in an array of distracting behaviors, including brushing their teeth and changing their clothes while behind the wheel;
- Five seconds is the average time your eyes will be pulled off the road while texting. If you are traveling at 55 miles per hour, this is enough time to cover the length of a football field while blindfolded.
- Smartphone ownership has jumped from 52 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2014.
Snapchat Leads to Fatal Accident in Atlanta
The smartphone and social media have increased distracted driving accidents to new highs. A recent Atlanta accident demonstrates the dangers of distracted driving, specifically involving a filter from social networking site, Snapchat, that allows people to share how fast they are traveling while they take selfies. The accident, which is currently being litigated in court, happened when a driver allegedly attempted to use the Snapchat filter while traveling at a high rate of speed. Apparently, the driver wanted to post an image of herself traveling at 100 miles per hour to send to Snapchat. Distracted by her smartphone and trying to drive fast, she allegedly merged into the plaintiff while still going over 100 miles per hour.
The accident victim suffered severe and permanent injuries and spent five weeks in the intensive care unit for treatment of traumatic brain injuries. He still requires a walker or wheelchair to get around and is unable to return to work. He is also now suing the makers of Snapchat, claiming that the company was aware of previous accidents caused by using the app while traveling at high rates of speed, but did not remove the speed filter.
This accident is just one of many spurred by the use of social media and other smartphone features. Twitter, Facetime, selfies, and other smartphone options have been blamed for hundreds, if not thousands, of accidents. While the makers of the smartphone never intended it to be used while driving, drivers continue to use their phones while behind the wheel on a daily basis. In fact, a report published by researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that Americans are distracted more than 50 percent of the time they are behind the wheel. Distraction rates are often even higher among teen drivers.
Georgia's Distracted Driving Laws
Georgia has passed several laws that make it illegal for people to drive while distracted. O.C.G.A, 40-6-241, for example, mandates that all drivers shall exercise due care while driving on Georgia highways and shall not engage in any activities that would distract the driver from the safe operation of the vehicle. This general provision is intended to ensure drivers focus on the road ahead. Failure to exercise due care that results in an accident can form a basis for civil and criminal liability.
O.C.G.A. 40-6-241.2 specifically makes it illegal for drivers in Georgia to text and drive. The statute states that no driver 18 years of age or older with a driver's license shall operate a motor vehicle on a road in the state while using a cell phone or any wireless device to:
- Send; or
- Read any text-based communication.
Under Georgia law, it is, therefore, illegal to write, read, or send a text message, an email, other internet data, and more.
There are exceptions to this rule. The law will not apply if you are:
- Reporting a traffic accident, fire, medical emergency or another serious road hazard if you reasonably believe a person's health or safety is immediately threatened;
- Reporting the occurrence of a crime or potential crime;
- A public employee or contractor acting within your scope of employment when responding to an emergency;
- A law enforcement, firefighter, or another emergency responder performing official duties;
- A person engaging in wireless communication while lawfully parked.
Anyone who violates this law is subject to a misdemeanor conviction and a fine of $150.
Further, O.C.G.A. 40-6-241.1 bans the use of any wireless communication device by drivers 18 years and younger, except to report a traffic accident or other emergency situation.
Drivers who repeatedly violate Georgia's ban on texting and driving can face heightened penalties and even potentially lose their licenses. It is critical that all drivers in Georgia make themselves aware of the law and stringently obey it. Following Georgia's driving laws will not only save you from harsh fines, but could also save your life.
Frequently Asked Questions About Distracted Driving
Is it safe to use by Bluetooth or another hands-free device while driving?
Use of a hands-free device is not illegal under Georgia law, but considerable research has called into question the safety of these devices. According to the National Safety Council, hands-free is not risk-free. Driving requires your eyes, hands, and mind for safe performance of the task. Hands-free devices pull the driver's critical attention from the road and can result in serious accidents. Accordingly, while legal, it is best to avoid even hands-free use of your cell phone while driving for your safety and the safety of those around you.
Who is most likely to drive distracted?
Statistically, younger drivers are the most likely to text and drive or engage in other distracting behaviors while driving. However, nearly any driver could be using his or her cell phone while behind the wheel. This makes it critical for you to recognize the signs of distraction. Be on the alert for the following:
• Driving extremely slow or fast
• Stopping erratically
• Looking down
• Drifting in the lane
If you suspect a driver is distracted, move as far from the vehicle as possible. If the driver poses an imminent threat to him or herself and others, you can report the driver to your local police department.
How can I prevent my teen from driving distracted?
The parents of teenagers are faced with the daunting task of ensuring their new driver behaves in a safe and responsible manner. Teens are notorious for texting while driving, but there are steps you can take to deter your teen from this dangerous behavior. Start by modeling good behavior to your teen. Never text and drive or engage in other distracting behavior while driving your teen because a teenager can easily pick up these bad behaviors. When your teen starts to drive, ride with him or her often, looking for any dangerous behaviors. If you notice your teen using his or her phone while driving, it can be a sign that your teen is not ready to obtain his or her driver's license.
Continue to monitor your teens' driving even after they have their official driver's license. Suggest that your child drive you to school or other activities so that you can observe their driving regularly. Explain to your teens the grave dangers of distracted driving and have your teens pledge never to drive distracted. Take action if your child violates this pledge, which could include revoking car privileges for a period.
Is it legal to read or return a text while stopped at a stop light?
It can be tempting for some drivers to check their text messages or return a text while waiting at a stop light. However, this behavior is strictly illegal under Georgia law. It is dangerous to take your eyes off the road at a light because you could miss the light change and go too soon or too late. Never read, write, or send a text while behind the wheel, unless you are legally parked in a safe location.
Why do so many people continue to text and drive?
With so much information out there as to the dangers of distracted driving, it can be hard to fathom why some drivers continue to text and drive. The reality is that some drivers still do not understand the hazards posed by distracted driving. Young or inexperienced drivers can fall into this category. Other drivers know the risks but choose to continue the behavior regardless. They falsely believe statistics do not apply to them, and that they will be fine. Still, others may turn to their phone while driving because they are in a rush and not thinking of the hazard. None of these reasons are a valid excuse for texting and driving, but it is nonetheless imperative that all drivers recognize the monumental hazards posed by texting while driving so that the dangerous practice ceases in the years to come.
Put Our Law Firm's Over 35 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Case!
The Atlanta Automobile Accident Attorneys at Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, provide dedicated and caring representation to injured accident victims and their families. For over 35 years, our firm has represented accident victims across Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.