Atlanta distracted driving accidents are a major – and growing – problem. Urban, suburban, rural and highway – no roadways are immune. Georgia traffic safety officials report distracted driving is increasingly cited in a growing number of:
- Single-vehicle crashes
- Rear-end crashes
- Crashes involving young drivers
A study released in January by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals drivers today are 57 percent more likely to be spotted manipulating their cell phones compared to those in 2014. Researchers concluded it’s not just that more drivers are on their phones – it’s that they are using them in ways increasingly precarious. Beyond just talking and texting, they’re surfing the internet, watching videos, updating social media, taking photos and live streaming their drive.
When a driver manipulates his/her phone, risk of a deadly crash skyrockets 66 percent.
If you are injured or a loved one killed in an Atlanta distracted driving accident – as a passenger, another driver, pedestrian or bicyclist – there are numerous ways a personal injury lawyer can help.
Although collecting damages from a distracted driver might seem a straightforward task, the truth of the matter is proving distraction is a lot tougher than, say, establishing drunk driving. While law enforcement crash investigators have become increasingly adept at identifying distraction as causation in crashes – and those findings frequently aid victims in their quest for monetary recovery – that isn’t their purpose. But it is ours.
At Apolinski & Associates, our Atlanta car accident lawyers have a team of seasoned crash investigators, expert witnesses and litigators. We conduct our own analysis with the specific goal of identifying evidence that will our client’s case. We generally advise crash victims to contact an injury lawyer as soon as possible. Claims can often be expediently and favorably resolved through insurance negotiation without ever filing a lawsuit. That said, our Atlanta civil trial lawyers will commit to a courtroom battle if that’s what’s in our client’s best interests.
How Serious is the Georgia Distracted Driving Problem?
Cellphones certainly aren’t the only thing vying for drivers’ attention. Technically, a distraction can be almost anything – from sipping a soda to changing the radio station to scolding an unruly child. But smartphones increasingly pose one of the most urgent traffic safety issues – partially because they’re now so pervasive and especially when drivers are more likely now to be actively manipulating one as opposed to just talking on it.
Make no mistake: Chatting on one’s cell phone (especially with a handheld device) siphons one’s attention from the task at hand. Government studies have concluded a driver talking on a cell phone will generally fix his/her gaze steadily at the center of the road. However, the act of trying to juggle two high-level executive functions at once (talking and driving) can make it tougher for a person’s brain to take in everything they’re seeing and tends to slow reaction times. Meanwhile, those manipulating their phones (texting, web browsing, watching a video, etc.) are even worse off because not only is one hand off the wheel, their mind off the task, they’re effectively driving blind for a good chunk of the drive.
A Georgia Department of Public Safety analysis commissioned last year by state house representatives revealed:
- Single-vehicle distracted driving crashes in Georgia rose 18 percent from 2013 to 2016, totaling nearly 4000 in just one year.
- Distracted drivers caused 13,500 rear-end collisions in Georgia in 2016.
- Authorities cited distraction in 12,400 crashes involving novice motorists (ages 15 to 25) that same year.
Federal authorities report distraction is a causal factor in:
- 10 percent of all fatal crashes
- 15 percent of all injury crashes
- 14 percent of all police-reported crashes
Cell phone use is expressly cited in 14 percent of deadly distracted driving collisions. That’s almost certainly a low-ball estimate because distracted driving isn’t always readily identified.
Georgia Takes Aim at Distracted Drivers With New Law
As your Atlanta car accident attorney can explain, distraction behind the wheel is a form of negligence. According to Georgia Code Title 51, negligence is a type of tort, which simply put is unlawful violation of a private legal right. Negligence is a tort that occurs when someone fails to exercise a required duty of care resulting in injury to another.
A driver who is inattentive fails to exercise the required duty of care to pay attention.
It’s not always imperative to prove the other driver was distracted in order to establish fault or obtain compensation. It does, however, strengthen your claim.
Proving distraction can also be valuable in helping your injury lawyer push back on any defense claim of comparative negligence on your part. As outlined in O.C.G.A. 51-12-33, your share of fault in causing the crash/your own injuries can proportionately reduce your monetary damages. It won’t eliminate your ability to collect at least a portion of it, though, unless you are deemed 50 percent or more at-fault.
Georgia traffic laws have long held that drivers were expected to use “due care,” explained as refraining from any action that might distract a driver from safe operation of the vehicle. This expressly includes everything BUT use of a mobile phone. Prior to last year, the law allowed for “proper use” of a mobile phone, a phrase not defined except but for in two subsequent sections indicating drivers under 18/with a Class D/Instruction permit were subject to a cell phone ban and all drivers were prohibiting from writing, reading or sending text-based communication while driving. Both had emergency exceptions.
Georgia’s distracted driving laws were enhanced last year with the 2018 Hands-Free Georgia Act, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(b)(c)(d), which took effect last July. Drivers are still required to exercise due care, but restrictions on cell phone use are now more stringent and explicit. Among the new provisions:
- Drivers can’t have a phone in their hand – or even touching any part of their body – while talking on that phone and driving.
- Motorists who opt for hands-free technology still can’t write, read or send text messages or emails, and they’re also expressly prohibited from the same on social media or any other internet data while they’re on the road.
- Drivers are expressly barred from watching videos while operating a vehicle, with exceptions for GPS or other navigational videos. While continuous dash cameras are allowed, use of phones or other electronic devices to record while driving is not.
- Motorists can listen to streaming music on their devices, so long as there aren’t videos displayed and they can’t touch the phone or activate those streaming music apps on their phone while driving. They will have to activate those apps before they get on the road. The law makes an exception for streaming music controlled by/listened through the vehicle radio.
All of this makes it easier for law enforcement – and your distracted driving injury attorney – to prove the other motorist was distracted.
A first-time citation for distracted driving will now run you $50 and 1 point on your license. (In case that doesn’t sway someone you love from putting down the phone, remind them of the The Zebra’s latest distracted driving report which found car insurance companies hike your rates by as much as 16 percent for a single ticket.)
Trust the Atlanta car accident attorneys at Apolinsky & Associates to be your advocates in a Georgia distracted driving accident claim.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.