Georgia drivers asked to ‘park their phones’ while driving

Crime & Safety

ATLANTA (WSAV) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deemed April, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies want Georgia drivers to park their phones or risk being ticketed.

Holding a phone while driving or supporting it with one’s body violates Georgia’s hands-free law. Georgia’s hands-free law took effect on July 1, 2018.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated April 8 as the “Connect2Disconnect” national enforcement day. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GHOS) and its regional traffic enforcement networks will conduct distracted driving enforcement operations in Georgia during the month.

“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,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Allen 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.”

The GOHS identified three types of distractions for drivers: manual, visual and cognitive.

Manual distractions such as eating, grooming, dialing a phone number or texting force a driver to take their hands off the wheel. Visual distractions such as looking at a GPS, a car crash, signs or billboards cause a driver to take their eyes off the road. Cognitive distractions such as daydreaming, talking to passengers or talking on the phone cause a driver to lose their focus, according to GOHS.

GOHS recommends drivers block all calls and texts by setting their phones to a “Do Not Disturb” setting until they reach their destination.

Distracted driver fatal crashes accounted for nearly 9% of all fatalities in the nation in 2019, according to NHTSA. Drivers aged 15 to 19 accounted for the largest portion in this group.

AAA also offered the following tips to avoid distractions while driving:

  • 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, click here.

Although overall traffic fatalities decreased from 2018 to 2019, distraction-related fatalities increased by 10% during the same year. However, the trend of increased distracted driving-related crashes isn’t the case in Georgia and the likely cause is the hands-free law, GOHS said.

There were 59 fatalities related to distracted drivers in 2018 in Georgia. The number of fatalities involving a distracted driver decreased by 27% to 43 fatalities in 2019, according to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

“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,” 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.”

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