Many of you know one of my favorite topics to opine upon as a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney in Atlanta, Georgia is distracted driving. I have seen too many families lose loved ones in car wrecks because of another driver’s ridiculous insistence on texting while driving. It is rampant in Atlanta and all over the State of Georgia. On nearly a nightly basis as I drive home from my Midtown office, stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I see at least one driver texting while driving (TWD). I have lately even seem almost defiant drivers holding their IPhone or Blackberry in the same hand that is holding the steering wheel and texting while driving. This is NOT just a teenage driving problem; the violators I see on a daily basis almost all seem to be adults.
And now we receive a report that the tool Georgia legislators gave law enforcement officers to help reduce or eliminate texting while driving is not being used. In the two years after a ban on texting while driving in Georgia took effect on July 1, 2010, state records reveal that fewer than 50 people a month have been convicted of the offense, for a total of 1,281 convictions as of Sept. 17. Last year, there were 3,840 crashes attributed to cell phone use/distracted driving in Georgia, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Nine were fatal and 955 resulted in serious injuries. So we know it remains a safety issue for Georgia’s motoring public.
There is no question that the message not to text while driving is being conveyed by various groups or corporations as public service messages. Three years ago, before a law was enacted against it, there was not public messaging about the evils of texting while driving. Now they seem to be everywhere, both in the private and public sector. For example, AT&T is campaigning across the country through its “Txtng & Driving … It Can Wait” program. Most news stations have public awareness campaigns against texting while driving, e.g., the “No Text Zone.” Car insurers, like State Farm Insurance Company, have joined the fight to reduce texting while driving, which makes sense given the fact that as one of Georgia’s largest car insurers, it must often have to pay for the mayhem caused by texting drivers. Billboards all over the state of Georgia implore you not to text while driving. One I saw recently said “TWD has G2G.”
Perhaps the penalty for being caught is not severe enough to deter would-be TWDers. A single violation results in a $150 fine and one point on a person’s driving record. Does this call for the Georgia General Assembly to increase the penalty? Or does it call upon our Georgia State Patrol and local police departments to work more on enforcement? Or both? It seems to me that both private and public sectors are doing their fair share to help prevent and stop texting while driving. Parents must do their jobs at home with their teen drivers to insist their children not text while driving and we, adults, must exercise some modicum of self-control and simply put down the phone and drive. It’s really a simple choice.