Smyrna has become the first city in Georgia that has passed a hands-free driving law. The legislation was a result of weeks of testimony from grieving parents and residents, according to a news report published by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (AJC). The city ordinance prohibits drivers from having phones in their hands while driving within Smyrna’s city limits. Drivers are allowed one touch while behind the wheel, however, but for actions such as answering the phone or starting instructions from a GPS.
Passing the Ordinance
The city ordinance was brought up last fall in an effort to minimize traffic-related deaths. Results from Georgia’s House Study Committee on Distracted Driving, which was aimed to determine what was necessary to slow down or stop the increase in statewide traffic-related deaths, mirrors the ordinance’s efforts. According to news reports, car accident-related deaths in Georgia increased by one-third from 2014 to 2016. The total number of deaths in 2016 was more than 1,500. One of the first efforts to stop these fatalities was the recommendation of a hands-free driving law despite past legislative efforts being fruitless.
Presently, state law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 who hold a learner’s permit from using wireless devices while behind the wheel. The law also bans adults from texting while driving. The Smyrna ordinance, however, bans actions beyond texting and violators may face a fine of up to $150.00. According to the AJC, the Georgia city law is modeled after the one passed in 2014 by Austin, Texas.
The law will not go into effect until April 2nd of this year, and allows officers to give drivers a 45-day grace period to comply with the ban. Moreover, the new law is only valid for two years, after which legislators will review data to see if the legislation is actually fulfilling its purpose of decreasing traffic-related deaths.
Georgia is not alone when it comes to distracted drivers. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), a total of more than 37,000 people were killed in traffic-related accidents in 2016. While this is a decrease from prior years, it is still a staggering number. The NHTSA reports that distracted driving accounted for 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries in 2015 alone.
Essentially, distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver’s attention from the road. This can include texting or talking on a cell phone, eating and/or drinking, talking to passengers in your vehicle, or messing with the vehicle’s navigation and/or entertainment system. All of these distractions take away from safe driving.
If you or someone you know has questions about the newly passed Smyrna law, or any other questions regarding the trend of lawmakers passing hands-free driving laws, contact a knowledgeable Georgia attorney today.