In Washington last month, Governor Jay Inslee took a step towards improving the safety of his streets by signing a law prohibiting the holding of any electronic device (cell phones, tablets, etc) while driving or waiting at a stop light. The law will go in effect in July due to the Governor’s veto of a section that would have postponed the law’s implementation until 2019. The matter is just too important to wait.
As technology’s prevalence in our everyday lives increases, its capability of distraction from our other daily activities increases as well. This includes our activity within our car. The human’s false sense of ability to multitask often leads to problems behind the wheel. The driver only looks away for one second or only needs to pick up that napkin or only needs to change the radio station or only needs to send that last text. But those single and quick moments that the driver’s attention is diverted are the single and quick moments that can take the driver’s or someone else’s life.
The problem doesn’t only occur with drivers looking away. A driver can be very much so distracted while his or her eyes are fixed on the road. There are many different types of distractions: internal (items inside the car), external (objects outside the car), visual (eyes taken off the road), manual (hands taken off the wheel), and cognitive (distracting thoughts). It just so happens that the use of the cell phone is a combination distraction; it combines the dangerous aspects of the various types of distractions into one grand distraction. In the entire time that you go through the process of picking the phone up, looking down at it to find the contact you want to call, thinking about if the other person can answer your call, and physically dialing the call, your focus has been taken off driving long enough to have an accident.
What is the law in your state?
In Georgia, there is no complete cell phone ban, and there is no hand-held ban like that of the State of Washington. There is a cell phone ban for drivers under the age of 18 and for school bus drivers. This ban includes the usage of the phone for any type of activity (call, text, etc) and also prohibits the use of any other electronic device like computers or messaging devices. If convicted, a user will be fined $150 or $300 if driver is involved in an accident. Texting (reading, writing, or sending) is prohibited for drivers of all ages and includes the use of any electronic devices used for text messages, instant messages, email, etc. The fine for conviction is $150.
By signing this law, the Washington Governor joins 13 other states (in addition to D.C., P.R., Guam, and the Virgin Islands) in banning the hand-held use of electronic devices. “The minimal use of a finger” is still allowed to activate a phone call, but the call must continue without the phone in the driver’s hand. This at least narrows down on the types of distractions the driver is experiencing when using an electronic device behind the wheel.
What can you do?
First, put down your phone. No text message is worth taking your own life or that of someone else. Second, if you have a teenage driver, ask them to sign a pledge with you promising to not drive distracted.
Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured due to motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others. Ms. Clark was the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and is a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. She has practiced law in Georgia for 29 years and is a Georgia Super Lawyer. Ms. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia, and she is a barrister in the International Society of Barristers. Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.