Georgia's New "Texting" While Driving Law.
What exactly is prohibited by Georgia's new statute and what are the consequences if you violate it?
Georgia recently passed a new law that makes it illegal to text on a cell phone while driving. That is the general description of the law. Actually, it is not a “new” law, but an expansion of an already existing law that makes it illegal to engage in any action that distracts the driver from the safe operation of a motor vehicle. The law now reads that one can be convicted under this statute “based upon the use of a mobile telephone for writing, sending, or reading a text based message or other purpose unrelated to engaging in spoken communication” So basically it appears it is now illegal in Georgia to use a cell phone while driving for any purpose other than making or receiving phone calls. That means reading your e-mails or text message would appear to violate this law.
What about a situation where you are stopped in traffic or at a red light and begin texting? The statute does not define “driving”, and one can only speculate as to where the courts will eventually come down on this issue; however it might be beneficial to compare the new texting statute with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) statute. The DUI statute makes it illegal to drive a “MOVING vehicle”. The statute dealing with texting has no “moving” requirement in order to be in violation of the law. That would seem to say that it is illegal to text even while stopped in traffic or at a red light. Again, no one is sure how the courts will come down on this issue, but I would recommend not texting when in this situation.
While the fine for texting while driving may only be $150.00, it also carries one point on your driving record, which may result in higher insurance premiums or possibly even cancellation of your policy. However, more importantly, it has been shown in various studies, and in factual situations, that one is a less safe driver while texting (and even while just talking on a cell phone). As the Georgia legislature said, texting while driving has resulted in “numerous traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths”. If you cause an accident while texting, and since it is now illegal to do so, you are considered “negligent per se”, meaning no other proof of negligence is required for the injured party to prevail in a civil case against you. This possibly could open you up to punitive damages, which very often are not covered by your insurance. At the very least, a jury will most likely award “enhanced” damages to the injured party as punishment for driving while texting.
So as one can see, the State of Georgia is taking texting while driving very seriously. If you decide to text while driving notwithstanding this new law, you are taking a foolish and unnecessary risk that could result in catastrophic consequences not only to you, but as to others using the roads as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Norman Miller, Personal Injury Attorney
Norman Miller has been practicing law for over 29 years. He began his legal career in the public sector, working for the Jones County District Attorney's Office, and later the Fulton County Solicitor's Office, where he obtained invaluable trial experience prosecuting criminal cases.
In 1989, Mr. Miller began representing major insurance companies such as Liberty Mutual, Wausau, One Beacon and Prudential, adding 18 years of experience defending personal injury cases. Mr. Miller knows how insurance companies and their adjusters operate and knows how to get an optimum settlement for you. If your case should need to go to trial, Mr. Miller has tried more than 100 jury trials in his career, with a success rate of well over 90%.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.