The Governor's Office of Highway Safety, Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies are asking drivers to go "Hands Free for Safety" or risk being handed a ticket for violating Georgia's hands-free law.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has designated April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month with April 8th designated as the "Connect2Disconnect' national enforcement day.
GOHS and its 16 regional traffic enforcement networks will be conducting distracted driving enforcement operations throughout Georgia during the entire month, with the goal to save lives and reduce crashes.
Georgia's hands-free law is saving lives, but we still see too many drivers with a phone in their hand when they are on the road," Governor's Office of Highway Safety Director Allen Poole said. "For those who are pulled over for having a phone in their hand, do not ask for a warning because this is your warning to park your phone when you are driving."
According to NHTSA, the number of traffic crash deaths linked to driver distraction accounted for almost nine percent of all fatalities in the United States in 2019. Drivers in the 15-19 age group had the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of fatal crashes at nine percent.
Even though overall traffic fatalities in the United States dropped from to 2018 to 2019, distraction-related fatalities increased by ten percent from 2018 to 2019. While the number of distracted driving fatalities has increased nationally, the trend in Georgia is going in the opposite direction and the state's hands-free law is likely one of the reasons for the decrease in traffic deaths in crashes involving a distracted driver. Georgia's hands-free law took effect on July 1, 2018 and prohibits drivers from holding a phone or supporting a phone with their body when they are on the road.
According to data from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the number of fatalities involving a distracted driver in Georgia decreased by 27 percent from 59 people in 2018 to 43 people in 2019.
"The goal of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month is to show everyone that driving is a serious responsibility that requires our full attention every time we are behind the wheel," Poole said. "While we all think of phones when we hear distracted driving, distracted driving is anything that we do behind the wheel that takes our hands, eyes, or attention away from the road."
There are three types of distraction for drivers. Manual distractions cause a driver to take their hand off the wheel, like when eating, grooming, dialing a phone number, or typing a text message. Visual distractions cause a driver to take their eyes off the road, such as looking at a navigational device, a crash on the road, or signs and billboards. Cognitive distractions cause a driver to lose their focus on what is happening on the road, like when they are talking on a phone, talking to a passenger, or daydreaming.
To help prevent distracted driving crashes, drivers are urged to set their phones and wireless devices to the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" setting. This feature will block all calls and messages to your phone when you are on the road and will notify the person trying to contact you know that you are driving and will respond when you have reached your destination.
Other tips from AAA to avoid distractions while driving include:
Adjust navigation systems, mirrors and other vehicle features before getting on the road.
Store loose gear and other possessions so they do not move around when the vehicle is moving.
Eat meals or snacks before or after the trip.
Finish dressing and personal grooming at home.
Limit conversations with passengers and let them know your main priority is their safety.
If there is something important that is a distraction, pull off the road and find a safe place to park.
For more information on distracted driving, visit www.headsupgeorgia.com.