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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2015 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Distracted driving occurs anytime a driver’s focus is not on the road. The largest cause of distracted driving is cell phones, but can also include adjusting settings in your vehicle or interacting with passengers.

A five-second distraction while driving at 55 miles per hour translates to driving the full length of a football field with your eyes closed. Imagine closing your eyes intentionally while driving. It sounds ridiculous, but every time you look down to find something in your bag or check your phone means your eyes are essentially closed as you are not able to see any changes on the road or other drivers.

The NHTSA reports that on average 660,000 people a day in the United States use their phones while also driving. Persons aged 16-24 years are also twice as likely to be involved in a collision on the roadway that was a result of distraction from using their phones for navigation, texting, calling, and using the internet.

We recommend that in addition to taking the pledge to “Put It Down” while driving that you complete the following pre-drive checklist before even starting your vehicle:

  1. Close all exterior doors, make sure the driver and all occupants have fastened their seatbelts, and that all children are properly secured in weight appropriate child seats.
  2. If you are driving alone, place your phone in a secure place that you can reach in case of an emergency but that is out of sight while driving.
  3. If you are driving with passengers, have a passenger hold your phone until you arrive at your destination.
  4. Start your vehicle.
  5. Enter GPS coordinates and put your music on (if any) before putting your vehicle into Drive. GPS navigation and music should be hands-free as much as possible during your drive.

In Georgia, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 40-6-241 states that “A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle…” If you cause a collision on the roadway as a result of using your phone or other distracted driving you may be subject to additional criminal fines and penalties including paying for the medical bills and property damage incurred by those involved in the collision.

Take control of your life and your drive by pledging to “Put It Down” and following your pre-drive checklist.

Renée Morgan is a litigation attorney who has recovered millions for persons injured on the roadway and continues to provide comprehensive representation in both Civil and Criminal cases.