Are Georgia’s Distracted Driving Laws Tough Enough?

Distracted driving is a national problem—in every state, people are dying because of distracted drivers. This has led to a patchwork system of laws, where some states are extremely lenient and others come down hard. Georgia laws are somewhere in the middle of the road.

The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety cites a 2006 study finding that about 80% of auto accidents are related to some form of driver distraction occurring within three seconds of the incident. As we all know, cellphones are a leading cause of distraction. So limiting cellphone use by drivers could save lives.

State Laws on Cellphones and Texting

Currently, Georgia prohibits all drivers from texting while driving. Nonetheless, it’s not unusual to see drivers texting behind the wheel, their eyes darting from the road to their lap while navigating traffic. The ban applies to text messages, emails, and Internet browsing. Exceptions include emergency situations and drivers who are parked.

All cellphone use is banned for teens and for bus drivers. If you are under the age of 18 or if you are a bus driver, you cannot use a phone while driving, period. You can’t use a hand-held device or hands-free technology.

The City of Atlanta also bans cellphone use by city workers behind the wheel.

If you are caught violating these laws, you face a fine. More important, you face being involved in a serious accident.

Dangers of Texting

Being distracted behind the wheel can lead to serious car accidents. Texting is likely the greatest of distractions. One study found that composing a text takes an average of 4.6 seconds, the time it takes to drive the entire length of a football field at 55 mph. A whole lot can happen in 4.6 seconds of traffic.

A survey from AutoVantage motor club found that 35 percent of Atlanta drivers admit to talking on their phone every single day while driving. The results of this survey led to the city being named the sixth-least courteous driving city. An online survey from 2008 revealed Georgia to have the third-highest rate of texting drivers in the nation.

When you are driving, your job is to get safely from point A to point B. Your primary consideration should be what’s happening on the road, not what’s happening on Facebook or your text messages. When you text behind the wheel, you are putting everyone at risk.

Calls for More Restrictions

Some lawmakers would like to see an all-out ban on handheld devices while behind the wheel. Thus far, those efforts have proved fruitless. Such a bill died in 2012, but efforts are still being made to pass such legislation.

HB31, introduced for the 2013-14 session, made it to a second reading in the house in January 2013 but hasn’t moved since. That bill would allow only hands-free cellphone use by Georgia drivers.

Paired with continued education on the dangers of distracted driving, an all-out ban on handheld phone use could keep all drivers in our state safer.