The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement officers are warning drivers to put down their phones before a statewide distracted driving crackdown begins Oct. 5.
State and local law enforcement officers in Georgia will join a week-long nationwide enforcement effort led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has designated October as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Distracted Driving Awareness Month is normally observed in April, but this year has been moved to October due to the COVID-19 national health emergency.
Distracted driving is any activity that takes a person’s attention away from driving, such as talking to passengers, eating, adjusting the radio and grooming. However, the use of cellphones behind the wheel is one of the biggest distractions for drivers since it diverts attention from the road for longer periods of time, which increases the chances of being in a crash.
“The hands-free law is saving lives on Georgia roads, and we can save even more lives with everyone putting down their phone when they are behind the wheel,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Allen Poole said. “As more people return to the road, it is important that all drivers are obeying the speed limit, wearing seat belts, driving sober and always driving alert.”
According to NHTSA, there were 2,841 people killed and approximately 400,000 injured in distracted driving crashes in the United States in 2018. In 2018 5% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in the United States were reported as distracted at the time of the crash, and 8% of drivers 15-19 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
The overall number of traffic deaths in Georgia has decreased since the state implemented a hands-free law in 2018. According to NHTSA, the 1,504 traffic deaths in 2018 were a 2% decrease from the 1,540 people who were killed in traffic crashes in 2016. However, the number of people killed in traffic crashes in 2018 represented a 32% increase over a five-year period.
“For those who will not put down their phone when they are driving, this is the only warning we are giving because those pulled over violating the hands-free law should expect to be handed a ticket,” Poole said. “Cell phones make our lives easier but no text, social media post or video is worth your life or the lives of others.”
Everyone has a role to play in eliminating distracted driving deaths on our roads. Teens should speak up and encourage friends to sign a pledge to never drive distracted. Parents need to lead by example by not driving distracted since children often learn their driving habits by watching their parents.
Educators and employers can spread the word at school or workplace about the dangers of distracted driving and asking students or employees to make the commitment to drive distraction-free.