One of the most tragic events in and around Georgia are fatal motor vehicle crashes. Loss of life on our roads and highways is something we all would like to see diminished in numbers. Only recently, a young woman lost her life maneuvering a curve on a Georgia highway. Lowering the number of fatal crashes in our state is something we can all support. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is dedicated to lowering the number of fatal crashes and has established an important goal: lower the number of annual fatal crashes across America by 1000.
Georgia’s Department of Transportation (GDOT) has set a goal in our state to reduce this number by 41 or more. Current statistics on fatal crashes in Georgia is not moving in the right direction. During 2017, there were 1550 who lost their lives on our roads. This is an increase of 33 percent and up from lower numbers in prior years such as 2014. In an effort to reduce loss of life in Georgia due to motor vehicle crashes, the Georgia Department of Transportation is continuing its major effort known as “Drive Alert Arrive Alive.” The increase in road and highway fatal crashes amounts to four lives lost on a daily basis and is above the national average. That is truly a sobering statistic. One of the culprits in this rise is distracted driving. Teen distracted driving is a particular concern.
These statistics are likely a major factor in the recent passage of a statewide hands free driving law in the Georgia Legislature which is on the Governor’s desk for signing. Local legislative efforts, which will be preempted by the statewide law on the Governor’s signage, were supported by families impacted by loss of life on Georgia roads, including the parents of one of the nursing students who was fatally injured in 2015.
The provision would require that drivers only use personal electronic devices “hands free.” In other words, holding a phone or other device will be prohibited, but drivers would still be able to navigate and talk on the phone with the phone in a cradle and use a speaker or headset. The new law was supported by the findings of a Georgia House of Representatives study involving the impacts of distracted driving. Some of the findings included:
- Difficulty for law enforcement to enforce the texting while driving laws.
- Georgia’s texting while driving prohibition did not reduce fatalities.
- Georgia public health and insurance premiums are adversely impacted by these crashes.
- Rural drivers are at a higher risk than urban drivers to suffer a fatal distracted driving crash.
- Other states across America with hands-free laws have managed to decrease fatalities within two years of passage.
Scholle Law is hopeful that the new law will be signed by the Governor and that it will reduce fatal crashes in Georgia. Distracted driving is an avoidable risk of our modern technologies. Responsible use of telephone, navigation and never texting while driving (already against the law in Georgia) are necessary to reduce the number of fatal crashes in Georgia. Please contact our law firm for more information about distracted driving crashes and what you can do if you have been harmed or injured by a distracted driver.