(Media release from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety):
Smartphones are an important part of our daily lives but using them while driving is costing too many people their lives. That is why the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is joining state and local law enforcement officers in reminding drivers to save lives on our roads by parking their phone when behind the wheel.
Georgia law enforcement officers delivered this message during a “National Distracted Driving Awareness” month kickoff with Tennessee law enforcement Monday morning at the Interstate 75 Welcome Center in East Ridge, Tennessee. After the news conference, officers from both Georgia and Tennessee began week-long high visibility enforcement campaigns aimed at preventing crashes and saving lives in their respective states.
State troopers, GOHS Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic (H.E.A.T.) units, and local law enforcement agencies in the 16 GOHS regional Traffic Enforcement Networks are conducting high-visibility enforcement of Georgia’s Hands-free law during “National Distracted Driving Awareness” month in April. Drivers who refuse to comply with the state law prohibiting them from having a phone in their hand or supported by their body while on the road risk being issued a ticket.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is partnering with law enforcement agencies for a nationwide effort to reduce distracted-related crashes, deaths, and injuries through high-visibility enforcement of distracted driving laws during the first two weeks of the month.
“Phones are a valuable part of our daily lives for communication, entertainment, and commerce, but using your phone while driving can cost you or someone else their life,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Allen Poole said. “We asking all drivers to put their safety and the safety of everyone traveling on the road first by pledging to park their phone before every trip.”
The number of persons killed in distracted-related crashes in Georgia has decreased since the state’s Hands-free law went into effect on July 1, 2018. According NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, the number of persons killed in distracted driving related crashes in the state decreased in 2020 by 25 percent compared to 2017, the first full year before the hands-free law.
According to NHTSA, almost 32,500 people were killed in distraction-related crashes in the United States from 2011 to 2020. In 2019, 18 percent of the persons killed in distraction-related crashes in the U.S. were pedestrians, bicyclists, or others using a roadway in some manner where they were not riding in an automobile.
Texting while driving remains a major factor in distracted-related crashes involving younger drivers. Nine percent of drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes in the United States in 2019 were reported as distracted. According to NHTSA, the number of fatal crashes caused by distracted drivers involving 15 to 20 years old in Georgia has decreased by 70 percent since the Hands-free law was enacted.
“It should not take someone dying or being seriously hurt in a traffic crash to realize phone use and driving are dangerous,” Poole said. “Paying attention to the road gives drivers a better chance to avoid a crash by reacting faster when another vehicle pulls into your lane of traffic, pulls out in front of you at an intersection, or comes to a sudden stop.”
While phones are usually associated with distracted driving, anything that takes the driver’s focus off the road is a distraction that could potentially lead to a crash. There are three types of distractions. Visual distractions are anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road such as reading a text or email message, looking for items in the car, adjusting GPS, or looking at a sign or anything on the road. Manual distractions are anything that takes the hands off the wheel such as sending a text or email, eating, or searching through a wallet or purse. Cognitive distractions cause the mind to focus on something other than driving like talking to a passenger, daydreaming, or being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and NHTSA offer the following tips to help prevented distracted-related crashes:
- If you need to send or are expecting an important text or email, find a safe place to park your car to read or send the message.
- Designate passengers to have access your phone to serve as a “designated texter”
- Do not call, text, or send any type of message to someone you know is driving if it is not urgent
- Put your phone away before starting your trip. You can check it when your reach your destination or take a rest stop.
- Put down your phone if your passenger asks. Do not endanger the lives others.
For more information on distracted driving and Georgia’s Hands-free law, go to gahighwaysafety.org.