It’s been two months since Georgia banned drivers from manually operating smartphones and other electronic devices while driving, which left us wondering: have driving habits changed at all?
The Snellville Police Department, which handed out 93 citations for improper use of a telecommunications device last month, is optimistic about the new law. In July 2017, there were 176 wrecks, and in June 2018 – a month prior to the law going into effect – there were 181 accidents.
Last month there were 130 wrecks, 28 percent fewer compared to June’s numbers.
The hands-free law took effect July 1, but many law enforcement agencies choose to issue warnings instead, giving drivers more time to adjust to the new expectations. Other agencies, like the Georgia State Patrol, cracked down on drivers immediately and issued hundreds of citations within the first several days.
Since the beginning of August, the unofficial grace period ended and police agencies began issuing citations.
Columbus Police report slightly fewer people are using their phones but there is still a long way to go to reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road. Their department issues multiple tickets a day.
Nearly 200 miles north, the Dalton Police Department also began writing tickets as of August 1. Officers have issued more than 30 tickets to drivers for using cell phones while driving.
The data isn’t available yet, but it appears there have been fewer crashes here as well. A good sign for all Georgians.
Unfortunately, a recent survey conducted by AAA reported 75 percent of Georgians claimed to have seen other drivers holding cell phones on a regular or fairly regular basis. About 60 percent said they saw other drivers texting as well.
So while it appears some Georgians are trying to pay more attention to the road, others are struggling to adopt safer habits.
Georgia’s hands-free law allows drivers to use hands-free devices to make phone calls and use navigation services. However, drivers cannot read, write or send messages, social media posts, or email.
If you need to text someone, voice-to-text is allowed.
Drivers cannot watch or record videos (GPS and dash cameras are allowed though). Drivers can listen to music through streaming apps like Spotify, but cannot manipulate apps or change music while driving or watch music videos.
Touching your phone or other electronic devices while at a stop sign or traffic light is also prohibited. You must be legally parked to use your phone.
Phones may be used during emergencies to report a wreck, medical emergency, crime, fire or other hazardous road condition. Utility workers, law enforcement, fire, and EMS are allowed to make calls or send texts as long as they are related to work duties.
First-time offenders must pay a $50 fine and receive one point on their driver’s licenses. A second citation costs $100 and drivers receive two points on their licenses.
For every third and subsequent violation, a person will be fined $150 and be penalized with three points.
Here is the best recommendation we can give you about your safety and cell phone: pull over if you need to make or take a call, read a text, or send one. Otherwise it is still distracted driving and it is unsafe for you, your passengers, and others on the road.
If you have been seriously injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact our personal injury lawyers at 770-934-8000 to discuss your claim.