Survey: Many still don’t obey Georgia’s distracted driving law

A new survey confirms that most Georgia motorists are getting the message about the state’s new distracted driving law. But they’re having a hard time obeying it.

Today AAA reported that 77 percent of Georgians are aware of the law that prohibits motorists from using handheld cellphones while driving. But more than 60 percent say they still see motorists texting or emailing behind the wheel.

The survey of 409 residents was completed Jan. 28 to Feb. 8. It has a margin of error of up to 4.9 percent.

The results mirror those of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey released in January. That survey found the vast majority of Georgia residents usually obey the law. But only 45 percent of respondents said they obeyed the law all the time, though an additional 40 percent said they did most of the time.

The Hands-Free Georgia Act, which took effect last July, prohibits motorists from holding cellphones or other wireless devices or supporting them with any part of their body (you can read the details here).

> RELATED: Georgia's cellphone driving law - what's legal and what's not

The law allows all drivers – teenagers and adults alike – to use those devices while driving if you use hands-free technology. An effort to ban teens from using electronic devices at all while driving failed in the General Assembly this year.

AAA announced its results at the beginning of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Research has found:

*Drivers who text are up to eight times as likely to be involved in a crash. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. At 55 mph, that’s enough time to drive the length of a football field.

*Drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash.

*Hands-free, voice-based technology is still distracting. Drivers can be mentally distracted for as long as 27 seconds after using voice-based technology to dial, change music or send a text message. At 25 mph, that’s long enough to drive the length of nearly three football fields.

“Distracted driving is anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road, potentially putting motorists and others in harm’s way,” said AAA spokeswoman Montrae Waiters. “If a driver is distracted by texting or changing a radio station, they may not notice law enforcement or the tow truck driver assisting a stranded motorist on the side of the road.

“Not focusing on the road puts your life and others at risk,” Waiters said.