In 2015, five nursing students from Georgia Southern University were killed when their cars were hit by a tractor-trailer. The truck driver, who was charged with homicide for these senseless deaths, was texting at the time of the collision and completely failed to stop before rear-ending the students. On May 2, 2018, the families of those young people stood behind Gov. Nathan Deal as he signed a new Georgia distracted driving law which prohibits motorists from handling their cell phones and other electronic devices while driving and significantly increases the penalties and consequences for those who text and drive.

The new law, titled the “Hands-Free Georgia Act,” specifies numerous activities involving phones, video cameras, GPS systems, and other devices which could result in a driver’s conviction.

The Scope of the Problem

The needless loss of those five young lives is a tragedy repeated almost every day in Alpharetta, Georgia and across the country. Despite public education campaigns and stricter laws, distracted driving, including texting, takes thousands of lives every year.

According to a 2013 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 660,000 drivers use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment in the U.S. Georgia, like many other states, has seen a significant uptick in the number of highway fatalities, which many experts attribute in part to the increased use of phones by drivers and the distractions the use of those devices cause.

In fact, in 2016, an estimated 3,450 fatalities were caused by distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates distracted driving kills nine people daily across the country and injures another 1,000.

Last year, 1,549 people died on Georgia roads and highways, and according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, traffic crashes in the state skyrocketed by 36 percent between 2014 and 2016.

What is Prohibited Under the New Law?

The new law is part of an effort to bring those numbers down and spare families the pain and heartbreak of a loved one’s life needlessly taken away.

Specifically, starting on July 1, 2018, it will be illegal in Georgia to do any of the following while operating a motor vehicle on a Georgia highway:

  • Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device, though the use of Bluetooth devices, an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication is allowed;
  • Write, send, or read any text-based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided, however, that such prohibition does not apply to:
    • a voice-based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form; or
    • the use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes;
  • Watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle;
  • Record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided that such prohibition shall not apply to electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside the vehicle.

Additionally, drivers of commercial vehicles can’t use more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a phone call or reach for a phone or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a safety belt.

Consequences of Violating the New Distracted Driving Law

The biggest consequence of distracted driving in Alpharetta and elsewhere in Georgia is the potential damage, injuries and deaths such conduct can cause. But even if no one is hurt, the penalties for violating the new Georgia distracted driving law can be expensive, and not just in fines and fees.

A violation of the law is a misdemeanor. Penalties begin at $50 for a first offense, in addition to adding a point to your driving record and increasing the possibility of higher insurance premiums. For a second offense, violators will pay $100, while three or more violations will result in fines of $150. First-time offenders may have their fee waived by purchasing a Bluetooth device.

Beyond the new law’s stated penalties, other consequences can follow a distracted driving conviction. For divorced parents or parents involved in a custody or visitation dispute, evidence of distracted driving could call into question that parent’s judgment or create doubt about their ability to provide for the safety and well-being of the child. Judges decide such issues on what is in the best interests of the child and can consider repeated traffic violations or criminal convictions in evaluating a parent’s fitness.

Speak With an Alpharetta Car Accident Attorney at Hait & Kuhn Today

As experienced Alpharetta car accident attorneys, we have seen first-hand the devastation caused by distracted driving. It is our mission to help those whose lives have been shattered by such conduct, getting them compensation that can help them heal and holding those who caused such pain and loss accountable for their actions. At Hait & Kuhn, we will be on your side every step of the way as you face the challenges that come after a car accident.

We know it can be a scary and difficult time when your world has been turned upside-down because of a serious car accident injury and that things can be even more devastating if you have lost a loved one because of another driver’s distracted driving or other reckless behavior. That is why our vigorous advocacy is complemented by compassion, empathy, and personal attention to your needs.

Call Hait & Kuhn today at (678) 944-0000 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation. We welcome the opportunity to serve you.