Distracted driving is the number one cause of traffic deaths in the United States. Drivers who text while behind the wheel are at least 8 times more likely to be in an auto accident. States across the country are cracking down on distracted drivers, and Georgia is no exception. Distracted driving was a big problem in the state, with traffic deaths rising by a third from 2014 to 2016.
A new law took effect in July of 2018 that makes distracted driving illegal. Whether you are a driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian, this law affects you. Not only does Georgia distracted driving law increase your safety, but it also affects how insurance companies, judges, and juries determine fault in an accident. Keep reading to learn more about the law and how it affects you as a Georgia driver, or check out these distracted driving statistics.
What is the Georgia Distracted Driving Law?
The state of Georgia has made distracted driving illegal.
As we mentioned before, distracted driving is much more than just texting and driving. In fact, under the law, the definition of distracted driving is any activity while driving that distracts you from safely operating your car or vehicle.
This is not limited to texting but includes talking hands-free on your phone, adjusting the radio, and more. This definition is much broader than many people would expect.
Any activity that takes your attention away from the road could be distracted driving.
What is Considered Distracted Driving in Atlanta?
Distracted driving is anything that prevents a driver from fully focusing their attention on the road. This includes any one or more of the following:
- Talking or texting on a cell phone
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Grooming oneself, for instance by tying a tie or applying makeup
- Conversing with people in the car, especially if this involves turning in the seat
- Fiddling with the vehicle’s stereo system
- Reading maps
- Focusing attention on the navigation system or entering data into the car’s GPS
- Watching a video
- Talking to other people in the vehicle
- Fussing with children in the backseat
- Adjusting the radio or music listening device
- Looking in the mirror or applying makeup
Any of these activities keeps a driver from paying full attention to the road when they are behind the wheel. Most of these activities are rather simple and may seem to have little effect on the driver’s attention. In practice however, they cause a driver to temporarily take their eyes off the road. This temporary action may result in an accident that harms a pedestrian, animal, the driver or their passenger(s). The driver could as well miss a red light and ram into another car, damaging it in the process.
In essence, you can only drive safely if the task of driving has your complete attention. Engaging in any activity other than driving while you are behind the wheel is tantamount to distraction and increases your risk of causing an accident.
As you can see, Georgia’s law regarding distracted driving is broad and encompasses any activity that diverts any of your attention from the task at hand.
The law does not target teens either. The restrictions and consequences are the same for drivers of all ages.
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How the Department of Transportation Classifies Distracted Driving
- Visual distraction. Anything that takes your eyes off the road is visual distraction. It prevents you from seeing what’s on the road ahead so you may take appropriate action in time.
- Cognitive distraction. Thinking about something else other than driving keeps your mind from being fully engaged in driving. This aspect of distracted driving keeps you oblivious of your duty on the road as a driver.
- Manual distraction. Whenever you take your hands off the steering wheel while driving, your response time lowers and this may cause an accident whenever and wherever a quick response is required.
Use of cell phones while driving has become the leading cause of car accidents in recent years. This places cell phones above drunk driving as a leading cause of car accidents. This is largely because texting or talking on phone while driving involves all three forms of distraction, with texting being the worst of the two.
Atlanta Laws For Phone Use On the Road
The Georgia governor and state legislature have made laws regarding distracted driving that apply to the roads in Atlanta. These laws prohibit texting or talking on cell phones while driving. Texting is particularly a more serious form of driving distraction and threat to road safety because it lowers the driver’s reaction time by up to 35 percent. Talking on cell phones has an 18-percent lowering effect on a driver’s reaction time while driving.
Notice that it takes only 2 seconds of inattentiveness to cause a car accident on a highway (for a car going at the speed of 60 miles an hour). Considering that texting, on average, takes more than 4.5 seconds of a driver’s attention off the road, the potential to cause an accident is critically high.
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How the Law Affects You
The truth is, Georgia’s distracted driving law affects everyone on the road, especially if an accident occurs. Because the law makes distracted driving a crime, it is often used to establish fault in a car accident. For example, if you cause an accident and it is determined that you were driving distracted, you can be found at fault and liable for the entire cost of the accident.
This includes any physical damage to property and bodily injury to other passengers, people in other vehicles, and pedestrians. You could also face criminal charges in addition to a civil lawsuit.
If you do not have insurance or are underinsured you could be held personally liable for damages. It is important to keep this in mind if you do cause an accident.
It can be tempting to explain yourself by admitting to being distracted by something as simple as changing the station on the radio. However, under the law, saying something like this will incriminate yourself, even if you weren’t being negligent.
On the other hand, if you are the victim in an accident that was caused by a distracted driver, this law can help you. If the driver who was at fault was distracted by anything, you will have a better chance of winning your case.
Even if the driver was not on a cellphone, if they were distracted by their kids or eating carry-out, stating so could help you recover your damages from their insurance company.
If you are caught driving distracted you could face many consequences. A ticket is the least of your worries.
Potential consequences of distracted driving include:
- Increased insurance rates
- Fines and fees
- The cost of an attorney
- Loss or suspension of driving privileges
- Court costs
The Law in Action
After Georgia’s distracted driving law went into effect, distracted driving convictions across the state doubled. Here’s the breakdown of statewide distracted driving convictions by year:
- 2010: 2,308
- 2017: 8,660
- 2018: 19,597
Research has shown that the law seems to be working. A study focused on cell phone use behind the wheel found a sharp drop off in activity after the law went into effect.
This coincided with a law enforcement crackdown on distracted driving. Often times, it takes a financial consequence to get citizens to cooperate with a new law.
How long do I have to File a Claim?
You have two years from the time of your accident to file a personal injury claim. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. You should contact a lawyer immediately following your accident.
If you have suffered a personal injury as a result of an accident caused by a distracted driver, contact Bader Scott Injury Lawyers at (404) 888-8888 for help. The driver is ideally liable for the accident that caused your injury. However, you still have to prove the case of distracted driving in court for your claim to be successful.
The law in Atlanta requires you, the injured victim, to provide the court with proof that your injury was the result of distracted driving and that the distracted driver is responsible. This requires you to follow particular guidelines provided in the state’s personal injury law to prove the claim. Being the injured victim in a Georgia court:
- You must prove that the distracted driver had a lawful duty to protect you from harm
- Your injuries must have been caused by the distracted driver’s negligence
- There must be proof that the distracted driver acted in violation of their legal duty to protect you from harm when s/he caused the accident that inflicted harm on you.
- You must convince the jury that you are owed damages as a result of the distracted driver’s action(s).
Without knowledge of the law, you won’t always know where to begin or how to present your claim before the courts in Atlanta. Bader Scott Injury Lawyers knows the law and can fight for you. Call them at (404) 888-8888 for your free consultation.