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Distracted driving law goes into effect in Georgia

Lawmakers in Georgia have taken action to prevent distracted driving and increase road safety. The Hands-Free Georgia Act, which went into effect on July 1, authorizes police in the Peach State to ticket drivers who use hand-held cell phones or other electronic communication devices while behind the wheel. The law also prohibits motorists from watching or recording video, sending or receiving text messages and accessing social media while their vehicles are in motion. However, drivers are still permitted to use navigation functions.

Georgia drivers who wish to avoid tickets while remaining in touch must now use hands-free devices. While motorists may use their cell phones to report an accident or when their vehicles are parked, they must comply with the new distracted driving law while sitting in traffic or waiting at a red light. Lawmakers say that distracted driving has contributed to a worrying 33 percent increase in traffic deaths in Georgia in just two years.

In 2016, car accidents involving distracted drivers took 72 lives in Georgia, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, most experts believe the true death toll is much higher because proving distraction can be difficult. Penalties under the new law range from a $50 fine and one driver's license point for a first conviction to a $150 fine and three driver's license points for a third offense.

Proving distracted driving is far less challenging for personal injury attorneys than it is for criminal prosecutors. The outcome of civil cases is determined by the preponderance of evidence, which means that lawyers must only convince juries that their account of the events in question is more likely true than not. This means that car accident victims may pursue civil remedies even when police have been unable to find enough evidence to support a criminal prosecution.

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