Georgia’s hands-free driving law — the regulation that restricts the use of cell phones or other handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle — is now a year old. And it appears it is making a difference.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution studied the effects of the new law’s first year, which even came with a three-month grace period from state authorities. According to its research, traffic fatalities fell by more than 2 percent since the new, more stringent hands-free law went on the books. Claims on automobile insurance collisions and for property damage also were down, the AJC found.
In years past, there were age limits on who could use a cell phone behind the wheels. Adults could grab their phone and dial a number. Teens 18 and under couldn’t.
But it was difficult at times for law enforcement to determine who was a teenager and who was an adult. The AJC also reported that texting and dialing could look similar at the glance from an officer.
So the new law bans any handling of a cell phone when behind the wheel. Texting, even at a red light or a stop sign, was prohibited before and now having the phone in your hand at those instances is against the law.
Thomasville Police put into play Operation Safe Driver about a month and a half ago and officers wrote more than 125 citations. Most of the citations were issued to drivers who had their phones to their ears or were reading text messages with the phones in their laps.
A 2017 study from AAA showed that more than 87 percent of motorists considered distracted drivers a problem on the road, topping traffic congestion and aggressive drivers as the leading worry.
July also happens to be National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. So, be it out of either a courteous nature toward your fellow humans or purely out of safety’s sake, put the phone down while you’re behind the wheel. As the public service campaign says, it can wait.