A Closer Look at Distracted Driving in Georgia

Since the start of the smartphone era in 2007, many states, including Georgia, have passed a hands-free law. In general, these laws prohibit motorists from holding and/or using smartphones and other digital devices while they are behind the wheel. However, these laws contain many exceptions, mostly for hands-free devices. Additionally, device distraction is only a small part of the distracted driver problem. 

Many distracted drivers do not feel remorseful after they cause crashes, as if the device or behavior somehow excused their negligence. A Marietta personal injury attorney forces these tortfeasors (negligent drivers) to accept full responsibility for the wrecks they cause. This responsibility includes paying compensation for damages. In a perfect world, tortfeasors would do the right thing before a lawyer gets involved. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Device Distraction

Every year, electronic devices are becoming more sophisticated. So, every year, they’re more distracting. That is especially true since all devices combine all three forms of distracted driving, which are:

  • Cognitive (mind off driving),
  • Visual (eyes off the road), and
  • Manual (hand of the wheel). 

If a tortfeasor uses a hand-held device and causes a wreck, the tortfeasor could be liable for damages as a matter of law, thanks to Georgia’s hands-free law. 

The negligence per se doctrine only applies if an emergency responder gives the tortfeasor a citation. Frequently, responders don’t issue tickets in these situations. Many responders see car crashes as civil matters. They do not want to issue tickets and get involved in them.

Therefore, many hand-held device claims hinge on the ordinary negligence doctrine. A Marietta personal injury attorney must prove that negligence, or a lack of care, caused the wreck.

There is a difference between a mistake and a lack of care. If Mary glanced down at her phone and she did not see Julie in the crosswalk, Mary may not be liable for damages. If Mary had been using her phone for several blocks, that is different.

Evidence in ordinary negligence claims usually includes the tortfeasor’s statements about device use and device use logs.

The ordinary negligence doctrine also applies to hands-free devices. These gadgets are legal to use, and they are also dangerous to use. In fact, using a hands-free device while driving is as bad as driving drunk.

Non-Device Distraction

Georgia also has a broad non-device distraction law. In 2015, a Cobb County police officer famously gave a driver a citation for driving while eating a cheeseburger. Under Georgia law, drivers must “not engage in any actions which shall distract” them from safely operating their vehicles.

The same negligence principles discussed above also apply to non-device claims. Technically, eating while driving, drinking while driving, and otherwise multitasking while driving is against the law. If officers issue citations, the negligence per se rule applies. If officers do not issue citations, the ordinary negligence doctrine is available. Evidence of a lack of care includes erratic driving before the wreck and witnesses who saw the driver multitasking behind the wheel.

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