Distracted Driving is a deadly behavior and despite Georgia’s prohibition from texting while driving, it continues to be a serious problem. In every State, people are dying as a result of driver distraction. The next time you are sitting at a red light, look at the drivers around you. You may be surprised to see how many drivers are texting or reviewing emails or even web surfing as they sit at the same light. All of these activities are illegal in Georgia, even while sitting at a red light. **
In 2010, Georgia enacted laws making it illegal for any driver under the age of 18 to use a cell phone for any purpose while driving (HB 23) and illegal for a driver of any age to text while driving (SB 360). The texting ban isn’t limited to texting, it includes emails, internet “Surfing” and even use of your cell phone’s navigation system. Georgia law allows a driver’s use of a GPS-only device (i.e. Garmin) and not a communication device.
According to research by Virginia Tech transportation Institute, a driver takes his eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds to read or send a text message. At 55 mph, a driver will travel the length of a football field in that 4.6 seconds.
Today’s smartphones allow the user to send/receive texts, send/receive emails, access social media websites, and even surf the web. Obviously, the smartphone provides more opportunity for driver distraction than the earlier cell phones. The number of drivers reporting that they use their smartphones to access the internet while driving is rising and this is a deadly practice.
In 2009 State Farm began a survey of drivers, asking whether they went online while driving. The percentage of drivers who responded that they do so rose from 13% to 24% this year. Further, the percentage increased from 29% to 49% in drivers 18-29 years of age. State Farm’s Director of Technology, Chris Mullen, states that “It’s not just a youthful problem”. In the past three years, smartphone ownership has risen among older drivers. The percentage of drivers ages 40-49 that own smartphones rose from 47% in 2011 to 82% in 2013, drivers ages 50-64 the percentage rose from 44% in 2011 to 64% in 2013 and in drivers ages 65 and older the percentage rose from 23% in 2011 to 39% in 2013. Although the problem of driver’s texting while driving has continued to slowly rise from 31% to 35% in the past five years, the number has decreased from 71% to 69% in drivers 18-29 years of age.
Perhaps the dangers of distracted driving warrant our lawmakers pushing for a ban on the use of handheld devices while driving. Although no such bill has been passed to date, efforts of lawmakers continue while insurance companies and community organizations push to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving.