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In 2019, 56% of all collisions in Georgia involved at least one distracted driver. Some have called distracted driving the safety issue of this generation or “the new drunk driving.” This Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s time to focus on the toll incurred when people don’t give operating a vehicle their undivided attention.
It’s illegal to use a cellphone while driving in Georgia unless talking on a hands-free device. Before the 2018 law, a study by TrueMotion found that Georgia drivers spent a stunning 19.5% of their driving time texting or using apps. Since the law has gone into effect, the amount of time spent on one’s phone has dropped to 15.4% — still much too high, but a significant improvement.
But while cellphone use is the most highly prioritized form of distracted driving, other types of distraction are also outlawed. Just because you’re not texting doesn’t mean you’re paying attention. Distracted driving can encompass a variety of other activities like eating and drinking, changing the radio, too closely watching your GPS, or even talking to a passenger.
Further, laws against distracted driving in Georgia can be enforced whether or not you’re breaking other rules. You don’t have to run a red light or be in an accident to get a ticket — just being caught using your cellphone is enough. In 2015, police ticketed a man for eating a cheeseburger while driving. While it was an unusual circumstance, the ticket was valid under Georgia law.
In addition to the risk of hurting yourself or someone else, you can also face financial consequences for driving distracted. Your first distracted driving citation results in one point on your license and the second adds two points; three or more citations add three points each. That can raise your car insurance rates and result in a revoked license.
In a Constitution survey, 45% of respondents reported following Georgia’s distracted driving laws all of the time, while 40% reported following them most of the time. We still have a ways to go to make our roads safer. Put down your phone, leave the soft drink in the cup holder, and back away from the radio dial. It’s slightly inconvenient, but it could save a life.