How are Georgian’s Responding to New Hands-Free Law?
In an effort to reduce the number of auto accidents caused by distracted driving, Georgia has implemented new laws targeting drivers. House Bill 673, or the Distracted Driving Bill, set new laws related to cell phones and electronic devices. Now that the law has been in effect for a few weeks, many people are wondering how Georgian’s are responding to the new laws. More specifically, how are Georgian’s responding to the “Hands-free Georgia Act” portion of the law, restricting use of mobile or electronic devices while driving. Let’s take a look.
How are Georgian’s Responding to New Hands-Free Law?
In the first few days after Georgia’s new distracted driving and “hands-free” law went into effect, Georgia State Troopers cracked down on drivers observed using mobile devices behind the wheel. On the first Sunday after the law went into effect, the Georgia Department of Public Safety reported that, statewide, 34 citations were issued, and 98 warnings were given. That number rose sharply in the following days and weeks.
During the first work week after the law was put into force, law enforcement around the Metro area reported seeing fewer people obviously using their phones. By Wednesday of the first non-holiday work week after the law was implemented, troopers had issued at least 170 citations, and 795 formal warnings.
Individual departments reported varying results over the same period of time. For example, the Atlanta Police Department reported writing 86 citations. The Lawrenceville Police Department reported only 25 citations. Many departments noted that they do not have accurate statistics related to compliance as of yet.
Like many laws, there is some speculation that, over time, drivers will become lax in following the rules, or will fall back into old habits. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported that many Metro area residents are skeptical that the law will work. Residents report consistently seeing drivers with their phones up talking or texting, even after the law was implemented.
How is Law Enforcement Responding to New Hands-Free Law?
Law enforcement agencies around the state are working to enforce the new laws and educate drivers. Many departments are focused primarily on educating drivers about the new law. For the first weeks or months of the new law, more warnings are expected to be issued, and many departments are equipping their officers with educational pamphlets.
Law enforcement officials also believe that as drivers settle back into their workday routines, they are likely to fall into old habits, especially those who commute and may be stuck in traffic for extended periods of time. Officials note that the hands-free law applies to drivers who are stopped in traffic, at red lights, or stop signs, as well as those actively driving.
What Drivers Need to Know about the Hands-Free Law
Georgia’s hands-free law was proposed in response to an increasing number of fatalities on Georgia roadways. Distracted driving, and texting while driving in particular, are increasingly common causes of auto accidents causing injuries or death. HB 673 addresses distracted driving in general, including activities like eating, reading, or grooming. It seems, however, that the most contentious element of the new law is the portion related to mobile devices.
In case you are not familiar with the new hands-free law, let’s take a look at the new rules and restrictions. Under the new law, drivers are prohibited from the following:
- Physically holding or supporting a wireless device with any part of the body. That includes propping your phone up on your leg, or using your neck to hold it while talking.
- Reaching to pick up or adjust a device if it requires moving outside a normal seated position, or outside proper restraint.
- Writing, reading, or sending any text-based communication. That includes texts, emails, or any form of internet data.
- Watching movies or videos, or recording videos.
The new law does offer drivers some concessions. The new law allows drivers to do the following:
- Use hands-free technology to speak or text.
- Use GPS or mapping apps (while not holding the device).
- Holding or using a device in an emergency to call 911, or to report witnessing an emergency or crime.
- Emergency responders (police, fire, emergency medical personnel) are exempt from the hands-free law while on duty.
It is important for all Georgia drivers to read the law and ensure that they understand what it means, and what could happen if they violate it. Currently the fines for violating the law range from $50-$150, depending on the number of previous offenses.
Why Going Hands-Free is Important
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more than 3,000 deaths every year due to auto accidents caused by distracted driving. The NHTSA considers these distracted driving accidents as caused by drivers who “…lost focus on the safe control of their vehicles due to manual, visual, or cognitive distraction”.
Unfortunately, the number of distracted drivers has not gone down in recent years. In 2015, 3.5 percent of all drivers involved in fatal auto accidents reported being distracted at the time the accident occurred. Texting or using a mobile device while driving is the most common cause of distractions reported.
Going hands-free is important to keep everyone on Georgia’s roadways safe. Distracted driving accidents are a significant cause of injuries and deaths that could be prevented if drivers obeyed the law. Now that the hands-free law is in force, it is up to drivers to educate themselves and make a choice to follow the law.
Injured by a Distracted Driver?
If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver, it is important to understand your legal rights, and what options you may have to pursue compensation. Negligent or reckless driving is never acceptable. At The Dixon Firm, our Atlanta personal injury attorneys can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.