Georgia Ahead of National Legislation on Distracted Driving by Teens

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On Tuesday, September 28, 2010, victims of teen-driving accidents lobbied Congress for tougher limits on teen drivers under the age of 18. Of course, this effort is part of a long history of the older generation trying to make it more difficult for the younger generation to drive. The one key difference in this “generation battle” is that today’s teenagers face distractions and dangerous driving situations which have never before been encountered.

Today, teens may have ipods, ipads, laptop computers, navigation units, dvd players, cell phones, pdas…..and the list goes on. All of these items are capable of being used in the car and many are capable of remote internet access, providing for even more distraction. It is challenging enough to learn how to safely operate a vehicle around the busy streets of Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, Columbus, and Albany. As an attorney in Georgia focusing on serious injury collisions, I have seen too many cases where texting, cell phone use, and similar distractions have resulted in horrible consequences on Georgia roadways.

Congress has received a proposal called the STANDUP Act, which would push every state to implement conditional driver’s permits for teens under the age of 18 and prohibit teen drivers from making telephone calls or text messaging in the car. Those states that follow these newly-proposed rules would receive federal money for a number of years.

Georgia is fortunately ahead of the curve in some areas. This year, Georgia passed legislation prohibiting cell phone use by drivers under 18 years of age and prohibiting texting by any drivers. Georgia is a bit more liberal with conditional permits, however, allowing 15 year olds to drive. The proposed federal legislation would push the age up to 16 in order to get a learner’s permit.

Last year there were 145 fatalities in Georgia which involved drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. Believe it or not, that figure is drastically down from 10 years prior. I suspect improved car safety (airbags, antilock brakes, etc.) had a lot to do with that. If we can cut down on distracted driving, I think we can get the rate of teen accidents even lower.

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