It’s been about five years since Georgia’s law prohibiting drivers from handheld cellphone use. The law made it a ticketable offense to hold a phone in your hand for virtually any purpose, including to read or write text messages, make phone calls or watch videos. The law’s purpose was to combat the major public safety problem that distracted drivers cause on Georgia’s highways and surface roads.
Now that five years have passed, we can begin to see if the law has had any effect. So far, it appears the handheld phone band has reduced the number of deaths in distracted driving car accidents in Georgia.
A smaller portion of car accident deaths
According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which tracks auto accident data within Georgia, 5.4 percent of all traffic fatalities were caused by distracted driving in 2017, the year before the new law went into effect. By 2021, the most recent year with available data, that percentage had dropped to 3.1 percent. That same year, the number of drivers convicted of distracted driving nearly quadrupled compared to 2017. The highway safety office believes that this aggressive enforcement of the law has contributed to distracted drivers causing fewer deaths.
Still a safety problem
Driving while distracted by a handheld phone is not a crime that can lead to jail. A first offense leads to a $50 fine and a point on your license. The fine doubles to $100 and two points for a second offense. Every offense after that costs $150 and puts three points on your license. It appears that more people are turning to hands-free technology or keeping their phones put away rather than paying expensive fines and risking having their driver’s license suspended.
However, with police ticketing tens of thousands of Georgia motorists each year, it’s clear that distracted driving is still common. As long as drivers fail to respect their duty to others on the road to pay close attention to driving, people will continue to get killed and seriously injured. Then they will need a way to pay for their medical bills, lost wages and other expenses.