What is Distracted Driving?
If you've ever answered a text, changed destinations on your GPS, or even taken a bite from your Big Mac while driving, you have engaged in distracted driving without even realizing it. Distracted driving is when a person indulges in any activity which takes attention away from the driver's ability to focus on their main task, safely operating their motor vehicle. Common distractions are activities such as:
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting music
- Reading (including magazines, maps, or books)
- Attempting to grab out-of-reach items in the moving vehicle
- Applying makeup
In 2013, distracted driving was the cause of 1 out of every 10 fatal car accidents in the United States and 9 out of every 50 injuries caused by car accidents. Here are a few stats on an underestimated killer on the roads.
Anyone with a cell phone, which is the vast majority of Americans, has the ability to text, however, not every demographic does at the same frequency while driving. Drivers under thirty, specifically 15-29, are the most likely to be involved in a fatal car accident while distracted driving. For fatal crashes involving distracted drivers:
- 10% were 15-19
However, the 20-29 demographic is much more likely to cause a fatal distracted driving car accident. For this age range:
- 27% caused distracted driving fatal accidents1, and
- 38% caused distracted driving fatal accidents while using cell phones1
Because of the higher likelihood that younger drivers will text and drive, there have been movements such as advertisements like the one pictured below as well as online campaigns like donttextdrive.com and AT&T's “It Can Wait.”
Georgia's Laws on Distracted Driving
Because distracted driving is such a large danger to the general public, Georgia lawmakers have created laws that make distracted driving, specifically pertaining to cell phones, illegal. If one is convicted for violating OCGA § 40-6-241.2, it is a misdemeanor and the punishment is a fine of no more than $150. Though, for those that operate commercial vehicles, such as semi-trucks and passenger busses, the punishment and the crime is steeper; it is illegal for any person who drives a commercial vehicle to use a cell phone, meaning pressing more than one button to make a call or communicate, while driving, with a fine of up to $2,750.00!
Distracted driving is a negligent act that constitutes a strong departure from the ordinary standard of care that those who drive on public roads are expected to adhere to, which subsequently opens a driver up to legal consequences if he or she causes an accident while engaging in this dangerously reckless behavior. Car crashes don't just damage cars; they can take lives!
Keep calm -Do not get flustered by the situation. The issue will be resolved more expediently if you communicate in a calm, effective manner
Call the police-Give a detailed description of where the accident took place to the dispatcher so that the police can arrive sooner
Write down the names of any witnesses or passersby that may have seen the other driver's behavior- Make sure to get not only their names, but also their contact information. If possible, ask them to make a statement about the accident to the police when they arrive.
Never apologize- While it may seem polite to say, “I'm so sorry!” or “I didn't see you there,” these words can be seen as an admission of guilt and used against you
Call an attorney- To get the best settlement for your damage and injuries, make sure to call an attorney experienced in personal injury cases to get your case resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible
While the consequences of distracted driving may seem harsh, it is easy to avoid all of the consequences in a few simple steps:
- Turn your phone off when you get behind the wheel or place it in the back seat
- Make sure to eat or drink before you get in the car or choose to eat-in at restaurants
- If using a GPS, enable vocal turn-by-turn directions to minimize the need to glance at the device
- Have a playlist of your favorite songs at the ready so that you don't have to adjust your music after you begin driving
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If I get a ticket for texting while driving, will it affect the points on my license?
The state of Georgia uses a point system to add points onto your license for certain offenses. The points range from 1-6 depending on the severity of the offense. Using a communications device either for the purpose of making calls or texting is worth 1 point being added to your license. If you are over 18, a total of 15 points accumulated over the course of 24 months will most likely result in your license getting suspended, but for minors, accumulating 4 points in 12 months will result in your license being suspended for at least 6 months. If at all possible, try to avoid texting while driving.
For a complete table of offenses and their point values, click here!
Q: If I'm only 17 and get a ticket for texting while driving, what happens?
If you are under 18, you are considered a novice driver in the state of Georgia, and all cell phone use is prohibited. Your parents' insurance rates will more than likely increase and you may have to take a Defensive Driving course, along with paying for that ticket, of course.
Q: If I cause an accident while texting and driving, am I liable for the damage to the other driver's car?
Probably. Unless there are extenuating circumstances where the other driver was equally, if not more, negligent in driving their automobile, you will likely be on the hook for paying for the consequences of the accident, though insurance will help.
Q: Will my insurance rates increase if I get a texting while driving ticket?
Tickets for distracted driving, particularly using a cell phone while driving are reported to the DDS, who will in turn notify your insurance. Insurance rates do not uniformly increase for tickets. For instance, if this is your first offense, you may only have a slight increase in your rates, but if you have previously had a DUI and then get a ticket for texting while driving, your rates may increase by a good bit more.
The only surefire way to find out is to contact your insurance company directly.
Q: But what if I need to call the police during an emergency while driving?
Obviously in emergency circumstances, you are permitted to call 9-1-1, but if possible, for not only others' safety but also your own, attempt to pull over when it is safe to make the call.
Distracted driving is dangerous for all involved and conscientious drivers should make all efforts to avoid engaging distracted driving if at all possible.