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Distracted driving convictions double across Georgia in wake of 'hands-free' law

In Gwinnett County alone, a report found over 2,000 more citations in 2018 than 2017.

Georgia’s crackdown on distracted driving has resulted in over 19,000 convictions since the state’s hands-free law went into effect, according to the Department of Driver Services. That’s more than double the number of convictions in 2017.

According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services Distracted Driver Data Report, Jackson County had the most convictions per 1,000 residents. Among the large counties (where over 50,000 reside), Gwinnett, Liberty, Walker and Hall were among those with the most convictions.

In Gwinnett, the second-most-populous county in the state, there were nearly 5 times more distracted driving convictions there in 2018, compared to Fulton County, according to analysis from ValuePenguin.

The state’s largest counties with the fewest convictions include Barrow, DeKalb, Forsyth, Bibb and Richmond counties, followed by Cobb and Fulton.

RELATED: Georgia State Representative caught driving alone in HOV lane while talking on cell phone

According to 2017 reports from the Georgia Department of Driver Services and Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which provides national census data on deadly accidents, Gwinnett residents were 256 percent more likely to receive a conviction for distracted driving, yet 72 percent less likely to be in a deadly accident due to distracted driving than Fulton residents.

"It is safer. It is safer. If you can convince people, hey, you need to be watching the road and not your phone, not looking down," said Lieutenant Jake Parker with Lawrenceville Police.

He said that if the hands-free law convinced even just a handful of people to put down their phones, it would be an improvement. Before the law was approved last July, it was a challenge to write a distracted driving ticket in Gwinnett County.

"It's a lot more readily enforceable, because you can say, 'Hey, I saw them wiht the phone in their hand," Parker said. "If you're stopped at a light and see them swiping pages or looking at pictures it is very easy to describe that when it's time to take it before a court."

Parker said Lawrenceville Police has written nearly 1,700 distracted driving tickets since the law was put in place. 

Gwinnett County Police has handed out 2,098 distracted driving citations and officers responded to over 17,000 collisions in that time frame. In the same period from 2017 to 2018, with no "hands-free" law, Gwinnett Police only wrote 220 distracted driving tickets and there were roughly 1,000 more crashes on county roads. 

Whether a slight decrease in crashes compared to a year ago in a certain area is connected to the "hands-free" law, Parker said, it's too early to tell.

"We haven't had a full year yet, so I can't even compare this March to last March," Parker said. "After a year, we will have a year's worth of statistics and then a year from that, we will be able to compare year to year."

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Statewide distracted driving convictions

  • 2018: 19,597
  • 2017: 8,660
  • 2010: 2,308

Largest counties with the most convictions (per 1,000 residents)

  • Jackson: 5.72
  • Gwinnett: 5.4
  • Liberty: 4.84
  • Walker: 4.64
  • Hall: 4.27

Large counties with the fewest convictions (per 1,000 residents)

  • Barrow: -.25
  • DeKalb: .50
  • Forsyth: .62
  • Bibb: .62
  • Richmond: -.99
  • Cobb: -.99
  • Fulton: -1

Information provided by the Georgia Department of Driver Services