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Georgia Drivers and the NTSB’s No Cell Phone Recommendation

distracted driver.jpgEarlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that it would like to see states ban calling and texting while driving. They extended this recommendation even to hand-free devices which apparently do not completely eliminate distracted driving risks. Here in Georgia, I serve as an Atlanta area accident lawyer and represent drivers harmed in serious motor vehicle crashes. Safe driving can certainly help avoid tragedy, but how far should lawmakers go in managing these risks?

Many states differ in this regard, some have complete bans on the use of cell phones unless it is hands free like California and New York. Georgia bans texting while driving, but allows the use of cell phones whether hand-held or not. Specifically, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 40-6-241.2 prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle on any public road or highway “while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data.” It is worth noting that even reading a text is prohibited, which could be viewed as similar to picking up the phone to make a call.

It is also worth a few minutes of your time to go to the NTSB site linked above, to find out why the NTSB asks rhetorically, so “what’s the big deal” and to review the statistics. We know that 3.092 people lost their lives last year because a driver was distracted while behind the wheel. If we were able to talk with those people now, what do you think they would say about driving distracted?

As noted by the NTSB, an uneventful trip can be one that is never forgotten when tragedy strikes in a distracted driving situation. Many of the accidents that happen when drivers are distracted by texting or talking on the phone while driving, could likely be avoided if the driver’s focus was fully on the road.

Although it is important for the states to look at the NTSB recommendation and Georgians are concerned about losing their right to use a phone while driving, it is doubtful that our lawmakers will impose such a restriction on Georgia drivers any time soon. After the NTSB announcement, the author of the Georgia anti-texting bill said that most lawmakers here would oppose a universal ban on cell phone use behind the wheel. He recommends the use of hands free devices and sees no difference between talking on a hands free device and a passenger in the car next to the driver.

But some experts point to subtle differences in behavior while on the phone as opposed to talking with a passenger, including the fact that the person on the phone cannot help the driver see things on the road that might be happening in front of him or her. Interestingly, UPS, which is based in Atlanta-based prohibits its workers from using cell phones while driving.

The NTSB cannot force states to enact the prohibitions they recommend. These came about after a terribly tragic pile-up last year in Missouri in which two people were killed and nearly 40 people were injured after it was determined that texting while driving was what started the accident in the first place.

The Georgia Governor’s Traffic Safety Office would like to see drivers put their cell phones away while driving as ideally this is a safer way to go. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution quoted the deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety as saying ” ‘[d]istracted driving is a serious problem. Put the cell phone in the glove compartment.’ ”
And local law enforcement agrees with this recommendation as the Cobb County Police Department spokesperson was also quoted as saying that use of a cell phone, for example, to dial a telephone number, ” ‘ … diverts a person’s eyes from the roadway to that device … [and] reduces the response time of drivers.’ ”
If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious motor vehicle, truck or motorcycle accident as the result of another’s texting or other reckless or negligent conduct, the Law Offices of P. Charles Scholle can help. Serving Metro Atlanta and all of Georgia, Gwinnett County injury attorney Charles Scholle understands the potentially catastrophic and devastating impact car, semi-trailer and motorbike accidents and distracted driving can have and can help you secure your legal rights and work hard to obtain the compensation you deserve.

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