Worst counties for distracted driving convictions
1. Jackson County
5.72 distracted driving convictions per 1,000 residents
223 more distracted driving convictions in 2018 than 2017
Jackson County ranks as the worst large county for distracted driving in Georgia, with 5.72 distracted driving convictions per 1,000 residents, or 346 total distracted driving convictions in 2018. In this northern suburb of Athens, Ga., drivers had a 62% higher chance of being cited for distracted driving than nearby Clarke County.
2. Gwinnett County
5.40 distracted driving convictions per 1,000 residents
2,481 more distracted driving convictions in 2018 than 2017
Gwinnett County is the second-most-populous county in the state, just behind its southern neighbor of Fulton County, home to Atlanta. Gwinnett might be smaller in size, but there were nearly five times more distracted driving convictions here in 2018 compared to Fulton County. According to 2017 reports from the Georgia Department of Driver Services and Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which provides national census data on fatal accidents, residents of Gwinnett were 256% more likely to receive a distracted driving conviction, yet 72% less likely to be in a fatal distracted driving accident than residents of Fulton County.
3. Liberty County
4.84 distracted driving convictions per 1,000 residents
76 more distracted driving convictions in 2018 than 2017
In the southeastern portion of the state, Liberty County, with its largest city of Hinesville, had a 33% increase in distracted driving convictions from 2017 to 2018. Nearby Chatham County and the city of Savannah saw a 296% increase — nearly nine times that of Liberty County’s increase. Yet, given its smaller population, Liberty County residents had 4.48 convictions, compared to Chatham County’s 2.81 convictions per 1,000 residents.
4. Walker County
4.64 distracted driving convictions per 1,000 residents
257 more distracted driving convictions in 2018 than 2017
Walker County, bordering both Tennessee and Alabama, sits in the northwest part of Georgia. Walker, including its largest city of LaFayette, saw a 415% increase in convictions from 2017 to 2018, which is the third-highest increase among large counties in the state. Walker County sheriff Steve Wilson said it was difficult prior to the hands-free law to determine if a driver was texting or holding the phone to have a conversation.
5. Hall County
4.27 distracted driving convictions per 1,000 residents
302 more distracted driving convictions in 2018 than 2017
Hall County shares a border with both number one ranked Jackson and number two ranked Gwinnett counties in north-central Georgia. Gainesville, which is located in Hall County, was recognized for its police department’s efforts to reduce crashes and distracted driving. The city earned first place in the 2018 Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Challenge promoting achievements in highway safety enforcement and education.
Safest counties for distracted driving convictions
Dodge County, home to the city of Eastman, notably reported zero distracted driving convictions in 2018, down from four in 2017. Dodge was the largest county in the state to not report any convictions.
Barrow County had the fewest distracted driving convictions, with 0.25 convictions per 1,000 residents, among counties with a population of more than 50,000. Barrow shares a border with Gwinnett, Jackson and Hall Counties, yet comparatively, the distracted driving conviction rate in Barrow was 20 times less than the average of the three neighboring counties.
Georgia counties with the most changes in distracted driving convictions
Most counties, regardless of size, seemed impacted by the hands-free sanction to Georgia's distracted driving law. Sixty percent of the counties included in our study showed more than a 100% increase in convictions from 2017 to 2018. Stephens County saw the largest percent change in convictions, up 3,400% since 2017.
There were 18 — or 12% — of counties that reported declines in convictions from 2017 to 2018. Most were small or midsize. Clarke and Muscogee were the only large counties with over 50,000 residents to report a decrease.
Distracted driving laws in Georgia
Effective July 1, 2018, Georgia joined 20 other states and the District of Columbia to put a hands-free law in place against cell phones while driving. The new law stems from growing concerns about accidents and deaths associated with distracted drivers, which are also impacting insurance rates for residents.
The average car insurance rate in Georgia is $1,335, and that is likely to increase for drivers caught touching their phone.
Rather, drivers should situate themselves prior to embarking on their journey and use an earpiece, phone stand, wireless headset or smartphone watch to legally talk on the phone or operate a GPS while in their car. If not, law enforcement can pull the driver over and ticket them accordingly.
First-time offenders are subject to a $50 fine and one point against their driver’s license. Fines and point values increase after the first offense, based on the number of prior convictions. If a driver accumulates 15 points in 24 months, the Georgia Department of Driver Services can suspend the offender’s license.
Georgia has launched several campaigns to promote the hands-free law, encouraging drivers to "Drive Alert, Arrive Alive". These campaigns are designed to raise awareness about the increasing and preventable fatalities that can happen on the road.
Complete list of counties in Georgia and their distracted driving rankings
Distracted driving conviction rate per 1,000 residents
% change from 2016 to 2017
ValuePenguin analyzed the total number of distracted driver convictions reported by the Georgia Department of Driver Services in 2017 and 2018. This was compared to U.S. Census Bureau data across all Georgia counties for which data was available. By our definition, large counties have populations of more than 50,000 residents, mid-sized counties have populations of 20,000 to 49,999 residents and small counties have populations of 5,000 to 19,999 residents. We removed counties with 4,999 or fewer residents from analysis due to small sample size. Data for Chattahoochee, Glascock, Quitman, Stewart, Early, Randolph, Calhoun, Clay and Taliaferro Counties were not provided by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.