Georgians know texting and driving is illegal, but many don’t care

Georgia has a new hands-free distracted driving law, but many motorists may be ignoring it.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving killed nearly 3,500 people across the country in 2016 alone. Thanks to smartphones and in-car infotainment systems, the threat from distracted driving only continues to grow. That threat is why Georgia lawmakers earlier this year passed a distracted driving law that prohibits the handheld use of a phone or other electronic device while driving. However, while most Georgians are aware of the law, a recent survey suggests that many may be continuing to drive while distracted anyway.

Hands-free law goes into effect

The Hands-Free Georgia Act went into effect on July 1, 2018. It makes it illegal for drivers to hold a phone or other electronic device while they are driving. Like most other states' distracted driving laws, Georgia's does permit the use of hands-free technology to make calls or input navigation instructions.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a recent survey by AAA looked into how effective the new law was at getting drivers to put down their phones. The survey found that while 98 percent of those surveyed were aware of the hands-free law, 75 percent of them said they had regularly or fairly often seen other drivers using their phones while driving. About 60 percent said they had regularly or fairly often seen other drivers texting behind the wheel. The survey was conducted between August 6 and 14 and involved 1,171 AAA members in Georgia.

Risks from distracted driving

Unfortunately, while many drivers are aware of the risks of distracted driving, they often have an inflated opinion of their own abilities behind the wheel. While sending or reading a text message only takes five seconds, those five seconds, when driving at 55 mph, are equivalent to travelling the entire length of a football field with one's eyes closed.

Along with the 3,500 people killed in distracted driving accidents, approximately 391,000 were injured in such accidents in 2015. Federal data shows that an estimated 481,000 drivers use their cell phones every day. However, because drivers are often less than forthcoming with police after an accident about whether or not they were distracted, it is believed that accident statistics related to distracted driving vastly underestimate the scope of the problem.

Talking to an attorney

Anybody who has been hurt in an accident that may have been caused by a distracted driver should get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney can help investigate the accident and represent the client's best interests when dealing with insurers and the legal system. With effective representation, accident victims have a much higher chance of receiving the compensation they may ultimately be entitled to.