By SELENA MADDOX
KENNESAW, Ga. – There are people on the road who still attempt to text while driving their vehicle, despite Georgia’s no texting while driving law.
The law against texting while driving was passed on July first, 2010. From then to end of 2014, there were one thousand 780 car crashes due to cell phone distractions. Of those crashes, 169 were worked by the Cobb County Police Department.
Distracted driving was the contributing factor in 15,580 crashes statewide from July 2010, to the end of 2014.
Georgia Department of Transportation, District Seven, District Engineer, Kathy Zahul describes distracted driving as “any activity that takes a driver’s eyes off the road.”
This means anything from talking, texting, picking something up, changing the radio, etc. What if you get into an argument with someone, then get behind the wheel?
“Your eyes may technically be on the road, but does the road have your full attention?” said Zahul.
Officer Pete Jones has been with the Cobb County Police Department for about 18 years working with traffic accident reconstruction. According to Officer Jones, there are two parts to the no texting while driving law, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.
The first part, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.1, focuses on drivers under the age of 18 with a CP or a class D license.
“Those drivers cannot talk on a cell phone, they can’t listen on a cell phone, they can’t write, send or read any type of electronic message,” said Jones. That includes texting, emails, and browsing the Internet.
The second part of the law, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.2, focuses on drivers 18 and older with a class C license.
“They can talk and listen on a cell phone, but they also cannot write, send or read electronic communication,” said Jones.
It is not easy for officers to determine if someone is texting while driving.
“Everybody knows that they are not supposed to be doing it,” said Jones. “As soon as they see a police car, their phone gets put down in their seat.”
If an officer detects any type of unsafe driving maneuvers, they would have to see that the person was typing a text to determine if they were in fact texting while driving.
It is hard to actually determine how many crashes in Cobb County are due to texting while driving. According to Jones, the database that holds all of the crash report records is very hard to query. Jones said that they have asked severally for the database to be changed, but at that moment nothing has been done to fix the problem. When an officer shows up to a crash the causation is underreported, because people usually don’t come out and say they were texting while driving.
Zahul said it’s hard to determine how many crashes in Georgia are linked to texting and driving. This is because of the absence of a specific field on the uniform crash report that indicates the contributing factor of the crash as being texting while driving.
“The solution to texting and driving is not something we can engineer our way out of,” said Zahul.
She works very close with the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, with particular focus on the behaviors of drivers. Together, they use electronic signs with messages stating texting and driving increases your chances of being involved in a crash by 23 times.
Officer Jones advices people to just wait to text when driving, because most of the time, it is not that important.
Zahul said, “Georgia is a Toward Zero Deaths state.” This means that G.D.O.T. is working to have zero fatalities on roadways.
“How many texts have you ever received that are as important as someone’s life?” said Zahul. “Which one are you willing to give your life for?”
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