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State urges drivers to pay attention behind the wheel

POSTED: April 8, 2017 7:00 a.m.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety warns drivers to not be foolish enough to think they can text and drive as April is "National Designated Driving Awareness" month.

Distracted driving is any activity that takes the driver's focus away from the road, including talking to passengers, eating or drinking, adjusting the radio and grooming.

The biggest distraction for drivers is cell phones. It is against the law in Georgia for drivers to text, e-mail or post on social media while their vehicle is on the road, including when stopped at a traffic signal or stop sign.

“I can't imagine any text message or e-mail that is more important than a human life,” Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said. “It is only human nature to want to pick up your phone when it alerts you that someone has sent you a message, but it will not hurt you or anyone else if you wait until you have reached your destination to check your phone.”

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the number of distracted driving crashes in Georgia has risen by more than 400 percent in the last decade. There were 25,215 crashes in the state last year where inattentive, cell phone or distracted was listed as the contributing factor compared to 5,784 such crashes in 2006.

There were 3,477 people killed and 391,000 injured in distracted driving crashes across the nation in 2015. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says roughly 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving during daylight hours.

To help reduce these numbers, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety is partnering with the Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Motor Carrier Compliance Division and the state’s 16 Regional Traffic Enforcement Networks for increased enforcement of Georgia's distracted driving law.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety has also produced its own distracted driving prevention message that is airing on television stations across the state, and a radio campaign that is also being distributed across Georgia.

"Every driver feels they are the one who can text when they are behind the wheel, but the crash data shows that it is just a matter of time before you cause a crash that kills or injures yourself or someone else,” Blackwood said. "The more people see just how deadly distracted driving is, then the better chance we have to make it as unacceptable as drunken driving."

Within the last year, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety has expanded its headsUPgeorgia.com distracted driving awareness website with new information, video testimonials and a pledge for parents and teens vowing not to text and drive.

A first ever Distracted Driving Prevention Task Team formed in July of last year. The team consists of law enforcement officers, transportation officials, private transportation-related business professionals and non-profit highway safety groups who are developing new initiatives aimed at reducing the number of distracted driving crashes in Georgia.

For more information about the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, please visit www.gahighwaysafety.org or www.headsUPgeorgia.com.  

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