With the rise of mobile technology—namely, smartphones—drivers now have much more to distract them from the road while in their cars. And distracted driving resulting from this dependence on our phones is contributing to increasing traffic-related deaths. Let’s look at the issues surrounding distracted driving in Georgia and changes that have been made to reduce car accidents related to distracted driving.
When Did Distracted Driving Start Causing Problems?
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, almost 1,600 people died on Georgia roads in 2017. And researchers say these rising numbers have correlated with an increase in mobile technology use.
As technology use is now in the palms of our hands, even when we’re on busy roads, distracted driving has become more of a problem on Georgia roads and all roads throughout the country. This includes not only adults but also teenagers who are newly licensed to drive.
The consequences of driving while texting or talking on the phone can be disastrous, causing serious accidents with severe, life-altering injuries and even wrongful death. These new mobile distractions have made it easy for drivers to take their eyes off the road—and even a second without alertness can result in danger to the drivers, passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians on the road.
However, just because many distracted driving accidents involve phones does not mean the roads were safer before. In fact, distracted driving has a long history that goes way back in Georgia.
The Secret History of Distracted Driving Before Cell Phones
“Ah, that guy’s on his phone and he almost hit me!” We’ve all heard these words and, chances are, most of us have said them more than once.
But distracted driving isn’t just a cell phone problem — or any other kind of electronic device. The truth is, it’s been around for as long as cars have been on our roads. That’s because the law defines distracted driving as being distracted by any activity that takes your attention away from the road — digital or not.
Examples of distracted driving that were common in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s include:
- Eating while driving. This may have been one of the single most common causes prior to cell phones!
- The radio. Cell phones aren’t the first electronic devices in ours cars — fiddling with the radio pulls eyes away, too.
- We often forget that smoking was once extremely common. With that came reaching for lighters, looking for cigarettes in a purse or in the car, and looking to the back seat to ask for a smoke.
- Any parent knows that children seem to need constant attention in the car, and they’re often in the back seat — which can cause distraction for the driver.
- Makeup and grooming. Both men and women are sometimes guilty of trying to fix their hair or otherwise groom while behind the wheel, which can have tragic consequences.
So, the year that distracted driving truly became an issue in Georgia was in 1908, the year the first Model T Ford was sold. But it became much more common in the early 2000s, with the widespread use of cell phones.
What Are the Rules Around Distracted Driving in Georgia?
In an attempt to reduce the incidences of distracted driving, the state of Georgia has made changes to laws around cell phone use:
- Up until recently, adults were prohibited by law from texting and driving, and drivers under the age of 18 weren’t allowed to use electronic devices in their cars at all.
- But on July 1, 2018, the new Hands-Free Georgia Act took effect.
- Under this act, both adults and teens are allowed to send messages and take phone calls while driving—as long as they aren’t holding their cell phones when they do so. If they are found to be holding their phone at all while in driving, they can take pulled over and receive a citation.
Some parents and officials have been concerned about what the changes can mean for the safety of teens who are new drivers. Although hands-free talking and texting can reduces distractions, it doesn’t eliminate them entirely. But the old rule has an added positive effects: The rule against phone use was hard for police to enforce, since it was often hard to tell if adults were texting or simply dialing a number to make a phone call, which was allowed at the time. Under the new law, drivers can get pulled over for being found holding a phone in their cars—no matter what they’re doing with it.
The bottom line is that a rise phone use is increasing the risks of accidents on Georgia roads—and drivers need to be prepared. If you or a loved one was injured or killed an accident with a driver who was using their mobile device, or you suspect they were (even if they claim they weren’t), you may be able to pursue financial recovery for your expenses and what you suffered.
Our attorneys at John Foy & Associates are here to help you with the next steps. And working with us is risk-free—we don’t get paid unless you get money. For a FREE consultation to discuss your case and how we can help, call us today at 404-400-4000, or complete the form to the right.