In February of 2015, 13-year-old Georgia resident, Parker Madliak, was struck by a distracted driver who was found guilty of texting and driving.
Since then, his mother Cheri Madliak has been urging Georgia lawmakers to help stop the distracted driving epidemic that the state and country is now facing.
Last Monday, Madliak stood before the Georgia House Study Committee on Distracted Driving and pleaded for action to be taken against drunk driving within the state.
“I just hope all of this goes somewhere,” Madliak said during the meeting.
Unfortunately, Madliak’s story is not an isolated incident in Georgia.
Highway deaths in the state rose by a third from 2014 to 2016. Last year alone, a total of 1,561 people died on Georgia highways. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, 1,268 people have died on highways so far this year.
“This is a major public health issue,” said state Rep. Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville. “We’ve got to do something to eliminating distractions."
Although all of the fatal car collisions cannot be attributed to distracted driving alone, lawmakers argue that it is definitely causing a majority of the incidents reported.
Last year, the state Department of Driver Services processed a total of 3,866 citations that were issued for phone use while driving, a violation which has risen by 30 percent since 2014.
In Georgia, it is illegal to text and drive, and residents under 18 years of age with a learning permit are forbidden from using any type of wireless device while driving.
Even though these laws exist, law enforcement officers claim that it is still very difficult to pinpoint who is committing these infractions.
“It’s confusing, and it’s very difficult to make a case,” Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman told the House committee last week. “The last thing we want to do is stop you and write you a ticket for something that’s legal.”
Advocates for ending distracted driving are also raising concerns about the fines attributed to these violations. If a person is caught driving while distracted, they are typically cited with a fine of just $150. Meanwhile, driving under the influence can cost violators up to $1,000 and a year in jail.
During the House Study Committee meeting last week, members discussed the possibility of raising the fines for distracted driving violations.
“We need clear and defined rules so we can make good cases,” Freeman continued.
The committee is expected to draft up a distracted driving law recommendation by the end of the year with hopes of establishing new legislation that will help put a stop to the epidemic.