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Georgia’s Hands-free law may be helping to reduce crash numbers

On July 1, 2018, Georgia joined many other U.S. states by making it illegal to use handheld electronic devices while behind the wheel. In addition to increasingly steep fines for first, second and third offenses, violators may have points added against their driving record.

Between July 2018 and June 28, 2020, Georgia State Patrol troopers issued 49,535 citations under the law. The data also shows that, since the law went into effect, the number of traffic fatalities statewide have decreased.

Data shows drop in traffic deaths

In 2018, Georgia saw a 2.3% decrease in traffic deaths compared with the previous year, dropping from 1,540 to 1,504 fatalities, the largest drop in annual traffic deaths since 2012. The number of passenger vehicle fatalities also fell in 2018, dropping by 6% from 2017.

As more states adopt hands-free laws, national data has also shown a downward trend in traffic deaths. Officials hope that, with a combination of education on the risks of distracted driving and enforcement of hands-free laws, that downward trend will continue.

Why is handheld cellphone use risky?

Using a hand-held device while on the road impairs a driver’s ability to react to potential hazards physically, visually and mentally. With only one hand on the wheel, he or she may be more likely to lose control of the vehicle, and with eyes off the road, the driver may not notice danger before it is too late to respond safely.

Typing or reading a text also means the driver may only be half paying attention to traffic, making it more likely he or she will miss a traffic signal or sign, fail to notice a pedestrian or cyclist, or otherwise cause a collision.