The Dalton Police Department is turning October into “Distractober” as it launches Operation Thumbs Up, a month long education and enforcement campaign aimed at reducing distracted driving on our streets. The idea is to keep your thumbs off of your phone (or any other distraction) so you can focus on the road. During October, the agency’s Traffic Unit will be working with the patrol division to step up education and social media coverage of the dangers of distracted driving as well as enforcement.
Most people know that texting while driving is illegal in Georgia, but drivers may not realize that distracted driving is also against Georgia law. Georgia code 40-6-241 states that “a driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.” Distracted driving can be defined as “any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.” Distractions can include cell phones, tuning a radio, reaching for objects on the floor, eating, or grooming.
According to statistics compiled by the DPD Traffic Unit since 2012, distracted driving has been blamed for at least 120 Dalton car crashes each year. That accounts for between 10 and 12 percent of wrecks in each of the years studied. That’s nearly double the roughly 6 percent of crashes in Dalton attributed to speeding or driving under the influence each year. Over the past three months, distracted drivers were blamed for twice as many crashes as speeders and four times more than drivers under the influence of alcohol. In August 2014 alone, there were 12 crashes blamed on distracted driving which accounted for 11% of crashes for the month.
In 2012, more than 420,000 people were injured and more than 3,300 people were killed in crashes involving at least one distracted driver. On May 22nd of this year, one Dalton motorist was lucky not to be added to those stats as he was hit by a train while texting and driving as he crossed the tracks on McFarland Avenue.
During Operation Thumbs Up, the DPD will be staging targeted patrols in areas such as Walnut Avenue and Glenwood Avenue where crash statistics indicate most distracted driving incidents occur in Dalton. Officers will be on the lookout not just for texting while driving but also for motorists who are driving in an unsafe manner due to other distracting factors. The department will also be working to educate the public through programs such as the “Teen Maze” event this week at the North Georgia Fairgrounds and also publishing distracted driving information in media releases and postings on the department’s social media pages. This operation is not a national campaign. Operation Thumbs Up is a home-grown effort by Dalton Police to make our roads safer.
For more information on distracted driving, visit www.distraction.gov.