By Robert Hydrick, from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety
The Governor's Office of Highway Safety would like to thank the management and editorial board of WALB for allowing us the opportunity to speak on the Hands-Free Georgia Act.
Starting July 1, drivers can no longer have a phone or any stand-alone electronic device in their hands or supported by any part of their body if they want to talk on their phones while driving.
This new law will require a major change in behavior for all of us since we have been holding a phone in our hand while driving since cell phones were introduced more than 30 years ago.
We ask all drivers to make the switch now so that hands-free will be your first instinct when you want to talk on your phone.
If you cannot connect your phone to your vehicle's electronic system or to a phone watch, we ask that you place your phone where you can easily reach it from the driver's seat and that you can still keep your head and eyes on the road when wanting to make or answer a call.
Distracted driving, mainly the use of phones, is a big reason why our state has seen a 35 percent increase in traffic deaths over a two-year period, and why Georgia led the nation in rising auto insurance premiums.
The number of rear-end collisions, single-vehicle crashes and crashes involving drivers 25 and under have also increased in Georgia, and public safety personnel says these crashes are all indicative of distracted driving.
Last year's report from the Georgia House of Representatives Distracted Driving Study Committee states that a driver in rural Georgia is twice as likely to be involved in a fatal distracted driving crash as one in an urban area.
Of the 15 other states that have enacted hands-free laws, 13 have seen their traffic deaths drop by an average of 16 percent in the first year.
Based on recent numbers in Georgia, this new law could save more than 230 lives a year.
Parking our phones when we are driving is going to require a change for all of us but it's a change that can save lives, maybe yours.
For more information on the Hands-Free Law, please go to headsupgeorgia.com.
Thank you and always remember to slow down and wear your seat belt every time you are on the road.