Georgia’s ban on texting while driving rarely enforced

Many drivers are aware of the dangers of trying to send text messages while driving. When a driver takes his or her eyes off the road to stare at a tiny screen and removes at least one hand from the steering wheel to type a message, the chances of an accident increase dramatically. However, a significant percentage of Georgia drivers still engage in such risky behavior, prompting lawmakers to pass a law prohibiting sending text messages in 2010. Enforcement of the law has been proving difficult for police, causing few drivers to be convicted of the offense.

Statistics show few convictions

Since the texting ban went into effect July 1, 2010, state records show that a total of 1,281 drivers have been convicted under the law. That equals an average of about 50 convictions per month. In contrast, during the same time period about 22,500 drivers have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

State authorities note that these statistics may not reveal the whole picture, as the Department of Driver Services only tracks convictions, not citations that officers issue to drivers. However, Georgia State Troopers report issuing only about 11 citations per month on average.

Difficulties with enforcement

Authorities note that there are several barriers to effectively enforcing the texting ban. The law requires authorities to prove the driver was sending a text message beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. In many cases, it is difficult for police officers to prove that a driver was sending a text message and not dialing a phone number or answering a phone call.

Law enforcement also reports that drivers are more cautious about texting behind the wheel since the law has passed. Drivers are on the lookout for police before sending a text message.

Some suggest that the penalty is not sufficient to discourage drivers from sending text messages. Violating the law means a $150 fine for the driver and one point on his or her driving record.

Types of distracted driving

Even if a fine is not enough to discourage people from texting while driving, the dangers of distracted driving should be. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that in 2010 alone, 3,092 people died in motor vehicle accidents attributable to distracted driving and about 416,000 more people suffered injuries in distracted driving accidents. USDOT statistics show that about 18 percent of all auto accidents are a result of driver distraction.

Distracted driving is not limited to cell phone use behind the wheel. Distracted driving includes:

  • Visual distractions: anything that makes the driver take his or her eyes off the road, including reading, consulting a map or a G.P.S. device or watching a video
  • Manual distractions: anything that makes a driver take his or her hands off the steering wheel, such as answering a phone, typing a text message, programming a G.P.S. device, grooming, eating and drinking or adjusting the car stereo
  • Cognitive distractions: anything that takes the driver's attention from the road, including stress, lack of sleep or talking with passengers

Safety experts usually target text messaging as one of the most dangerous behaviors in which to engage while driving, as it encompasses all three types of distraction. However, any distraction can lead to an accident.

Despite the care that a driver takes behind the wheel, he or she cannot control the behavior of others. If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by another driver's carelessness, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney with broad experience in car accident cases.