When people think about distracted driving, their first thought likely goes to cell phone usage. However, while cell phone use and texting are common distracted driving behaviors, many other tasks take a driver’s attention off the road. Unfortunately, driving while distracted happens all too often. Because of this, Georgia put distracted driving laws in place.
Some of Georgia’s distracted driving laws state that drivers should not engage in any actions that will distract them from the safe operation of the vehicle. Drivers can face penalties if caught driving while distracted, especially if they cause car accidents. On top of penalties for violating the law, they could also face civil lawsuits if others involved in the accident sustained injuries.
Distracted Driving Laws in Georgia
Distracted driving affects thousands of Americans each year. In one year alone, over 3,000 people died, and over 424,000 people sustained injuries from distracted driving accidents.
Georgia has distracted driving laws to prevent people from engaging in this activity. Because of its dangers, people caught driving while distracted will have to face fines and points on their licenses.
The state’s hands-free law protects drivers from several forms of distraction.
The law says that:
- A driver must exercise due care in operating a vehicle on the highways of Georgia and shall not engage in any actions that could distract the driver from safely operating the vehicle.
- Drivers cannot have a phone in their hand while driving.
- Drivers cannot have a phone touching anywhere on their body while driving.
- Even if a driver uses hands-free technology, they still cannot send an email, use social media, or use the internet while driving.
- Drivers cannot watch or record videos while driving on the roads. The only exception is watching a navigational map.
- If drivers listen to music, they cannot touch their phones to change the music. If the driver needs to touch their phone to play music through a streaming platform, they must do it before they get on the road.
- While operating a vehicle, no driver should use more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a phone call. They also should not reach for the device in a way that could prevent them from sitting in the driver’s seat correctly.
If someone does not follow the hands-free law, they could face fines and other penalties.
The fines include:
- First conviction: $50.00 and 1 point assessed on their driver’s license
- Second conviction: $100.00 and 2 points assessed on their driver’s license
- Third or more convictions: $150.00 and 3 points assessed on their driver’s license
After the first time an offender gets a ticket, they could get the charges dropped if they obtain a device that allows them to talk with hands-free technology. For example, drivers in Georgia can use the voice-to-text feature on their cell phones.
Categories of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving refers to any activity that diverts attention away from driving. Examples could include cell phone usage, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, or manipulating a stereo or navigation system.
The CDC states three main categories of distraction can affect drivers.
- Visual: Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road.
- Manual: Any activity that requires the driver to take their hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive: Anything that takes the driver’s mind off driving.
Many activities contain multiple categories of distraction. For instance, texting can include visual, manual, and cognitive distractions.
Because of cell phone use and access to other electronic devices, distracted driving happens more often. While these distractions commonly affect drivers, Georgia drivers may engage in other types of distractions.
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Manipulating a stereo or navigation system
Regardless of the type of distracted driving someone engages in, it could result in a catastrophic accident.
Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous distractions a driver can engage in. It can take a driver’s eyes off the road for over five seconds. Unfortunately, many people habitually check their phones immediately when it goes off, regardless of what they are doing. Not only does texting take the driver’s eyes off the road, but it can also take at least one hand off the wheel.
A driver who texts while driving commits a dangerous act that has taken many lives in the United States. On top of possibly causing a car accident, someone who texts and drives could face penalties under Georgia law.
Cell Phone Usage
Any type of cell phone usage can prove risky for drivers. If someone uses their hands to talk on the phone, it not only takes their hands off the road but also could take their mind off driving.
Using a cell phone can cause:
- A slower reaction time if a driver encounters an unexpected hazard on the road
- Increased lane deviations. If the driver’s eyes aren’t always on the road, they could veer into the wrong lane.
Anything that can cause the driver’s eyes to look away from the road, even for a second, can cause an accident.
Eating and Drinking
Drivers commonly eat and drink while on the road. This behavior can take their hands and eyes off the road at the same time. Eating and drinking while driving can prove dangerous for several reasons.
- Eating requires two hands. Even if eating only takes one hand, a driver may end up using two hands to eat at some point—whether when they open a package or dip a sandwich in the sauce. Even when the driver has only one hand occupied by eating, this can still prove dangerous.
- The driver’s focus is not fully on the road. When someone eats while driving, they have their focus on eating. If the driver’s focus isn’t fully on the road, they could miss a change in driving patterns or road hazards.
- It delays the driver’s reaction time. Anytime drivers take their eyes off the road, it delays their reaction time. It only takes looking away for one second for a driver to run into the back of another car.
Eating while driving can prove much more distracting than one would think. When someone causes an accident while engaging in this behavior, they can bear liability for the damages the accident causes.
Talking to Passengers
A driver may talk to other passengers in the car. While drivers may see this as a normal activity, it could cause cognitive distraction. Even when they only have one passenger to talk to, it could take the driver’s full attention off the road. Usually, conversing with someone else while driving takes the driver’s full mental focus off the road.
If the driver has a serious or emotionally charged conversation with the other passengers, it can cause an even more intense distraction. Therefore, you should maintain full focus on the road when having conversations while driving. Alternatively, avoid having difficult or emotional discussions while driving.
Manipulating a Stereo or Navigation System
Stereos and navigation systems are in many cars. While a driver may turn the stereo up or down quickly without taking their eyes off the road, it could cause enough distraction for an accident.
Programming a navigation system can take time and attention to complete. Doing this before the driver gets on the road is the safest bet. If the driver waits to plug an address into the navigation system once they’re driving, it could cause them to take their eyes off the road for a long time. This inattention could cause an accident.
Compensation Distracted Driving Accident Victims Could Recover
If someone causes an accident because of distracted driving, they could have to pay the victims for the damages they caused. Damages refer to the amount of money the courts require someone to pay for injuring someone else.
If the accident occurred because of distracted driving, the liable party could have to pay. Damages can vary based on the severity of the accident and someone’s injuries.
Types of damages the injured victims could recover include:
- Medical bills: Most injury victims have to receive medical treatment during their injury recovery. They could seek compensation for the costs of all medical treatments, such as emergency room care, ambulance rides, hospitalizations, surgeries, diagnostic tests, medications, and doctor’s appointments.
- Future medical bills: If the injured party’s injuries require medical treatment in the future, they could recover the costs of their projected future medical bills through an injury claim or lawsuit.
- Lost income: If the injured party has to miss work while recovering from their injuries, they could recover the income they lose through a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
- Diminished earning capacity: If the injuries any party sustained in the accident prove severe, it could prohibit them from working in the future. If this happens, they could recover compensation for diminished earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering: Injury victims could recover compensation for the physical pain they endured because of their injuries.
- Emotional distress: People who sustained injuries in car accidents could recover compensation for the emotional turmoil they went through because of the accident or their injuries.
You may recover other damages beyond those listed here. For instance, if your family lost a loved one to a distracted driving accident, you could recover several other types of compensation through a wrongful death case. This may include damages for your loved one’s final medical care, funeral and burial costs, income losses to your family, and more.
A personal injury attorney can help injured victims and families recover compensation for the damages they incurred. They can also calculate the damages to help provide a more accurate estimate of the case’s potential worth.
How the Statute of Limitations Could Affect a Personal Injury Claim
In Georgia, injury victims have two years from the accident to file a lawsuit against the liable party. While this seems like a long time, personal injury attorneys could try to settle before the two years conclude. To settle a case, the attorney must take several steps.
- Investigate the accident: When attorneys investigate an accident, they look for proof of the cause of the accident and who bears liability. They can collect evidence, review the police report, and talk to witnesses. This information can help an attorney build a solid case against the liable party.
- Negotiate with opposing attorneys: Attorneys typically have strong negotiation techniques to help their clients recover the maximum compensation. A personal injury attorney can try to negotiate a fair deal.
If negotiations don’t help the parties reach a settlement, then they can file a lawsuit. During a lawsuit, the case could get tried before a jury. A judge can hear both sides of the case and determine the amount of compensation the injured party should recover.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Distracted Driving Victims Recover Compensation
You could recover compensation for your losses if you sustained an injury through a distracted driving accident. You might have extensive medical bills or have missed work because of your injuries. If so, you might want to hire an attorney for help. A distracted driving accident lawyer can help you bring the negligent party to justice. With their help, you can have a legal advocate taking care of the legal matters so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
Many injury law firms offer free consultations. During the consultation, you can explain the circumstances of your accident and how your injuries have affected your life. Someone from the law firm can also discuss their services and whether their lawyers work based on contingency fees. With contingency fees, you don’t have to pay anything upfront to get started with a case. Instead, you can start moving forward without having to worry about the financial struggles caused by your injuries.