Distracted driving is accounting for increasing numbers of deaths and injuries on the highways of Georgia. Now, states are bringing in stiffer distracted driving laws to address the problem.
A new law in the state of Oregon that went into effect on October 1 widened the remit of distracted driving enforcement.
It brings in stiffer punishments for texting and talking on the phone and covers electronic devices beyond phones.
The original law had a glaring loophole. It only stopped drivers texting and talking on the phone. Drivers were able to avoid a sanction by claiming they were on a social media application like Facebook or Twitter.
While many states including Georgia ban texting on a hands-free device while driving, Oregon’s law goes further and requires drivers to put down their phones at all times they are behind the wheel.
Sgt. Ty Engstrom with Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division pointed out the law does not allow drivers to pick up their phones even if they are stopped in traffic or at a red light.
An offense will result in a $260 fine. That’s 62 percent higher than the old penalty.
The fine is considerably higher if the distracted driving incident leads to a crash. It goes up to over $400.
Drivers who commit a third distracted driving offense over a 10-year period may be jailed for six months and face a fine of $2,000.
Although Oregon’s new law is clearer than the original draft, one gray area remains. Drivers are allowed to give a single swipe to their GPS device when they have arrived at their destination or on their phone to decline a call.
They will be permitted to use any factory-installed systems in their car, such as navigation systems or the car radio.
It remains to be seen if other states will adopt stricter distracted driving laws like Oregon but the tide appears to be moving towards more regulation.
In Georgia, a panel of lawmakers plans to study the effect of cell phones and other electronic devices on the state’s drivers, reported the Savannah Morning News.
Over the summer, House Speaker David Ralston appointed seven Republicans and three Democrats to a study committee on the issue. The group will consider the role of distracted drivers in the state’s high number of fatal accidents and other accidents. A resolution creating the study committee stated the rate of fatal car crashes in Georgia is rising at three times the national rate.
It’s not yet clear if this trend if linked to more distracted driving. However, a recent study found there are more distracted drivers in the southern United States.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a driver who is failing to pay attention, please call our Georgia injury lawyers at (404) 913-1529.