Drivers adapt to Hands-Free Law; accidents decreasing

Hannah Carroll, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

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With the enforcement of the new Hands-Free law, students have started incorporating car mounts of different sizes and shapes in order to practice safe driving while having a phone visible. Car mounts like the one above are just some of the various types that can be placed in cars. Various retailers including Amazon and Walmart sell mounts similar to this one. Photo by Caroline Jennings | Campus Carrier

Decreasing car crash fatalities and statistics collected in 2018 show newly implemented Hands-Free Georgia Act may be effective in limiting distracted driving.

Georgia implemented its Hands-Free Law in July of 2018 in an effort to decrease car accidents and fatalities that had been increasing since 2010. The goal of the law was to limit distracted driving and make Georgia’s roadways safer for drivers. With 1,554 fatal car crashes in 2016, according to Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Georgia was ranked the fourteenth most dangerous state for roadways.

Fatal car crashes saw a decline of six percent in 2018 in comparison to 2017, according to Harris Blackwood, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. However, it is unclear if this is due to the law or if another factor is responsible. Because distracted driving statistics are dependent on self-reporting and eyewitness testimony, it is impossible to accurately determine the true amount of accidents caused by inattentive drivers.

A decrease in fatal accidents is still a victory, though, and the law is believed to have a hand in the declining statistic, according to Berry College’s Chief of Police Jonathan Baggett. Drivers are less likely to be distracted by their cellular devices in fear of facing a fine and, therefore, remain more aware while driving.

Citizens are thought to not be fully adhering to the law. There is less observance of drivers openly engaging with their phones, according to Baggett, but there still seems to be interaction as individuals keep their devices below the steering wheel.

“Everybody is tied to their cellphones now,” Baggett said.

Despite many individuals still continuing to use their phones as usual, hands free devices have become popular in response to the passing of the law. Many drivers, such as sophomore Alisa Jordan, now have stands that attach to the dashboard of their vehicles, which aid in preventing them from looking away from the road to engage with their phones. Bluetooth is also a popular feature in many vehicles, allowing drivers to receive phone calls without having to touch or look at their phones.

“I definitely feel safer because before when using the GPS I would have to pick up my phone, but now all I have to do is take a quick look,” Jordan said.

Another response to help decrease distracted driving is to put devices in “do not disturb” mode to prohibit notifications that may divert a driver’s attention. Apps that disable phones while the car is in motion are also a popular tactic, especially for teenagers who are on the roads.

Distracted driving is a preventable cause of accident that government is attempting to decrease with laws such as the Hands-Free Georgia Act. Now that drivers are no longer allowed to even touch their phones or look at them, with the exception of following a GPS, they are encouraged to obtain a hands-free device or to simply not use their phones at all, according to Baggett.

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