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Oct. 16 - Traffic Accidents Down Since Enactment of Georgia's Hands-Free Law

Brunswick Business Journal Staff Report

October 16, 2018 - Early trends show that traffic fatalities, crashes and related insurance claims are down since the enactment of the Georgia Hands-Free Law that became effective on July 1, 2018.

“I voted in favor of this law, not because I believe the State of Georgia should control our everyday lives, but because people are dying, being injured and automobiles and other private property are being damaged,” said State Representative Jeff Jones.  “Our insurance rates are skyrocketing well above the regional and national average.”

As of September 30, 2018, fatalities from traffic crashes in Georgia are down 11 percent year to date, which represents the largest decrease of Georgia’s traffic fatalities in 10 years.  Year to date, there have been 128 fewer fatalities in 2018 over 2017.

Further, according to Georgia State Patrol figures for statewide data, traffic crashes were down in the months following the July 1, 2018 implementation of the hands-free driving law.  Traffic crashes in July and August were down 2.5 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, over the same periods in 2017. Preliminary data for September 2018 showed an even greater decrease in crashes.

In addition, according to recent data on the Georgia private passenger auto insurance market, insurance claims have decreased for the first time in years.  Quarterly insurance claims decreased in both frequency and severity in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2017. This trend continued and further improved into the 1st quarter of 2018, where crash frequency was down 2 percent and crash severity was down 1 percent.  According to Dr. Robert Hartwig, Ph.D., CPCU, Clinical Associate Professor of Finance, Risk Management & Insurance at the University of South Carolina, “Collision claim frequency and severity are declining for the first time in years. Increased awareness of the consequences of distracted driving ahead of recent hands-free legislation is a likely factor.”

“Opponents of the new law argue that all distracted driving, such as eating, grooming, and other distractions, should be included in this new law,” added Rep. Jones. “The reality is that the percentage of traffic accidents caused by these other distractions are statistically insignificant compared to the accidents caused by cell phone use.  Unfortunately, citizens refused to change bad driving behavior voluntarily despite the clear and convincing evidence that using cell phones while driving exponentially increases the chances of an accident involving the loss of life, life-debilitating injury and significant property damage. The Georgia General Assembly had to act, and I'm glad we passed this law. Whether we agree with the new law or not, I know we all hope and pray that these positive trends will continue."

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