Waites: Applauding legislation to study distracted driving

In 2015 alone, 1,427 Georgians died in automobile accidents. Even more disturbing is the fact that traffic fatalities have increased in our state over the past nine years.

These are shocking statistics, but we can preserve the lives of thousands of Georgians by studying the challenges associated with distract driving and crafting comprehensive legislation to keep our roads safe.

This is not about politics. This is about saving lives. Without the added impact of using mobile devices while driving, inexperience and underdeveloped decision-making skills are the greatest contributing factors to teenage motor vehicle accidents, while distracted driving is the leading cause of accidents involving adult drivers. Teenagers have the highest crash rate of any age group, and cell phones are the cause of most teenage car accident fatalities.

According to the State Department of Transportation, I-285 is the deadliest highway in the country. Irresponsible behavior and distracted driving are two of the leading causes of automobile accidents on I-285. Additionally, the use of mobile devices while driving is the No. 1 cause of vehicle fatalities in the United States. These facts go hand-in-hand because metro Atlanta residents have long and exhausting commutes, making drivers more susceptible to distractions and fatigue.

Because distracted driving is a major issue in Georgia, I introduced House Bill 7 this legislative session, which would require drivers to use hands-free devices to make calls while driving. House Resolution 282 was also introduced this legislative session and would create the House Study Committee on Distracted Driving.

If passed, the resolution would establish a study committee made up of house members and industry experts to examine distracted driving and further study the use of hands-free devices while operating a vehicle. I fully support HR 282, as I believe that the committee’s findings will only reaffirm our state’s need for other legislation, like HB 7. Safety should be our first priority, and if established, this study committee’s work will save lives.

About the author

Keisha Waites

Representative Keisha Waites represents the citizens of District 60, which includes portions of Clayton and Fulton counties. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2012, and currently serves on the Interstate Cooperation, Juvenile Justice, Public Safety & Homeland Security, Special Rules, and Transportation committees.