OFFICER TOMMY GAINOUS is just one of the Cairo Police officers urging local drivers to keep their attention on the road.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia State Patrol, and local law enforcement officers are warning drivers to put down their phones because a statewide distracted driving crackdown began Monday.
State and local law enforcement officers in Georgia have joined a week-long nationwide enforcement effort led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has designated October as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Normally observed in April, Distracted Driving Awareness Month was moved to October due to the COVID-19 national health emergency.
Distracted driving is any activity that takes a person’s attention away from driving, such as talking to passengers, eating, adjusting the radio, and grooming. However, the use of cellphones behind the wheel is one of the biggest distractions for drivers since it diverts attention from the road for longer periods of time, which increases the chances of being in a crash.
“The hands-free law is saving lives on Georgia roads, and we can save even more lives with everyone putting down their phone when they are behind the wheel,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Allen Poole said. “As more people return to the road, it is important that all drivers are obeying the speed limit, wearing seat belts, driving sober and always driving alert.”
According to NHTSA, there were 2,841 people killed and approximately 400,000 injured in distracted driving crashes in the United States in 2018. Five percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in the United States in 2018 were reported as distracted at the time of the crash, and eight percent of drivers 15-19 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
“For those who will not put down their phone when they are driving, this is the only warning we are giving because those pulled over violating the hands-free law should expect to be handed a ticket,” Poole said. “Cell phones make our lives easier but no text, social media post or video is worth your life or the lives of others.”
The overall number of traffic deaths in Georgia has decreased since the state implemented a hands-free law in 2018. According to NHTSA, the 1,504 traffic deaths in 2018 were a two percent decrease from the 1,540 people who were killed in traffic crashes in 2016. However, the number of people killed in traffic crashes in 2018 represented a 32 percent increase over a five-year period.