Distracted driving stands apart as one of the biggest threats on the road today.
Every year, more than 3,000 Americans are killed and more than 420,000 people are injured in crashes caused by distracted driving. With a record number of drivers expected to hit the road in 2015, it’s important stay focused behind the wheel at all times.
Distracted driving involves more than texting or using a cell phone. It also includes eating, drinking, applying makeup, reading maps, using a GPS navigation system or adjusting a stereo. Any of these activities can take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel, endangering the safety of passengers, pedestrians and other motorists.
There are three main types of driver distraction:
• Visual: taking your eyes off the road
• Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
• Cognitive: taking your mind off driving
All three can be dangerous, but tasks involving both visual and manual distraction, such as texting or dialing a cell phone, pose the greatest risk. Reaching for a phone, texting and using other portable devices can triple the chance of getting into a crash.
Young, inexperienced drivers are more likely to be at fault. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, drivers under 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Nearly half of all U.S. high school students 16 or older admit to texting or emailing while driving.
Several years ago, five high school cheerleaders in western New York died in a fiery collision with a tractor-trailer after a distracted driver sent text messages. Last year, a Belmont, N.C., woman who is accused of texting while driving, was charged with second-degree murder for causing the death of an elderly pedestrian.
While texting, a driver’s eyes leave the road for an average of five seconds, which can cause a catastrophe. If you’re traveling at a speed of 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of an entire football field. Now consider you’d be covering that length blindfolded.
Georgia is one of the more liberal states when it comes to laws restricting cell-phone use behind the wheel. Currently, 14 states, including California and New York, ban the use of hand-held cell phones for all drivers. Georgia only restricts hand-held cell phones for novice drivers under 18.
In Georgia, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. The law prohibits drivers from using a cell phone, text messaging device, personal digital assistant (PDA), computer or wireless device to write, send or read text data while driving. The ban applies to text messages, instant messages, email and Internet data.
However, law enforcement officers cannot be everywhere. Motorists must take responsibility for their own actions every time they get in the driver’s seat.
Whether you’re driving across the state or just down the street, put your cell phone down and think twice about engaging in any activities that might require you to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the steering wheel.
The life you save may be your own.
Stephen G. Lowry is a partner with the law firm of Harris Penn Lowry LLP. He and his law firm handle numerous trucking-related claims. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-651-9967.