It’s not legal to text and drive in Georgia. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-241 prohibits this activity. But recently, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the enforcement of the ban is plain and simply lacking. Since the law became effective (July 1, 2010) there are less than 50 convictions per month for texting while driving. So, despite the fact that distracted driving is known to be extremely dangerous, some Georgia drivers are plain and simply — getting away with it. But as an Atlanta distracted driver injury lawyer, I know that injuries might well result from combining driving and texting and those injured by a distracted driver can get help for their distracted driver accident.
In a recent tally, the total numbers of those convicted of driving distracted is less than 2000, while during the same time frame, there were over 22,000 drivers who were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These statistics are maintained by Georgia’s Department of Driver Services (DDS). In 2011, nearly 4,000 crashes in Georgia were due to the use of cell phones and distracted driving. Of these, nearly 1,000 resulted in serious injury and nine resulted in deaths.
Across the country, many states have banned texting while driving as it is known to be a serious hazard pulling attention off the road and onto a phone or other PDA. The difficulty in citing drivers has to do with the difficulty in proving that someone was actually texting — as most drivers put their phones away when they are pulled over by law enforcement. And, proof is difficult in these situations because prosecution has to show that the driver was actually texting while driving, not dialing or talking on the phone which is still legal in Georgia.
But other states ban holding the phone while driving and require essentially that calls be put on a speaker or that drivers use Bluetooth technology so they can be fully hands free. Unless and until Georgia steps up its laws to prohibit holding the phone while driving, this will continue to be an issue for law enforcement. It is easier to cite and convict drivers when all they have to be doing is holding a phone up to their ear, as is the case in California and New Jersey, for example.
The other issue pointed out in the report is that the penalty is low enough that drivers are not taking it seriously enough. The monetary amount for a violation is a $150 fine and results in only one point on a driving record.
In Gwinnett County drivers are getting the message so to speak, because the county leads in convictions and in fact has more than every other Georgia combined. For example, Gwinnett County had over 600 convictions in the same period in which Cobb County had convicted 64, Fulton convicted 43, Clayton County convicted 20 and DeKalb County convicted 16. Gwinnett County officers are said to “diligently watch for distracted drivers during routine traffic patrols, but the department has not emphasized enforcing the texting while driving law.” Great statistics when the officers are keeping this activity top of mind.
The latest studies are sobering indeed. Texting while driving raises the likelihood of accident over 20 times since the driver takes his or her eyes are off the road for close to 5 seconds when sending or receiving a text.
If you or someone you know has been hurt by a distracted driver, contact me at my law firm, the Law Offices of P. Charles Scholle, P.C. — I will personally evaluate your situation at no cost to you. With offices throughout the Atlanta metro area, we are here to help you recover from your distracted driver car crash and help you get the medical and legal support you need after a serious accident and injury.