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Distracted Driving

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Whenever you are driving a vehicle and your attention is not on the road, you’re putting yourself, your passengers, other vehicles, and pedestrians in danger. Distracted driving can result when you perform any activity that may shift your full attention from the driving task. Taking your eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel presents obvious driving risks. Mental activities that take your mind away from driving are just as dangerous. Your eyes can gaze at objects in the driving scene but fail to see them because your attention is distracted elsewhere.

Activities that can distract your attention include: talking to passengers; adjusting the radio, CD player or climate controls; eating, drinking or smoking; reading maps or other literature; picking up something that fell; reading billboards and other road advertisements; watching other people and vehicles including aggressive drivers; talking on a cell phone or CB radio; using telematic devices (such as navigation systems, pagers, etc.); daydreaming or being occupied with other mental distractions.

2.9.1 – Don’t Drive Distracted

If drivers react a half-second slower because of distractions, crashes double. Some tips to follow so you won’t become distracted:

  • Review and be totally familiar with all safety and usage features on any in-vehicle electronics, including your wireless or cell phone, before you drive.
  • Pre-program radio stations.
  • Pre-load your favorite CDs or cassette tapes.
  • Clear the vehicle of any unnecessary objects.
  • Review maps and plan your route before you begin driving.
  • Adjust all mirrors for best all-round visibility before you start your trip.
  • Don’t attempt to read or write while you drive.
  • Avoid smoking, eating and drinking while you drive.
  • Don’t engage in complex or emotionally intense conversations with other occupants.

2.9.2 – Cell/Mobile Phones

49 CFR Parts 383, 384, 390, 391 and 392 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) restrict the use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs); and implement new driver disqualification sanctions for drivers of CMVs who fail to comply with this Federal restriction; or who have multiple convictions for violating a State or local law or ordinance on motor vehicle traffic control that restricts the use of hand-held mobile telephones. Additionally, motor carriers are prohibited from requiring or allowing drivers of CMVs to use hand-held mobile telephones.

The use of hand-held mobile telephones means, “using at least one hand to hold a mobile telephone to conduct a voice communication; ”dialing a mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button”; or “moving from a seated driving position while restrained by a seat belt to reach for a mobile telephone.” If you choose to use a mobile phone while operating a CMV, you may only use a hands free mobile phone that is located close to you and that can be operated in compliance with the rule to conduct a voice communication.

Your CDL will be disqualified after two or more convictions of any state law on hand-held mobile telephone use while operating a CMV. Disqualification is 60 days for the second offense within 3 years and 120 days for three or more offenses within 3 years. In addition, the first and each subsequent violation of such a prohibition are subject to civil penalties imposed on such drivers, in an amount up to $2,750. Motor carriers must not allow nor require drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving. Employers may also be subject to civil penalties in an amount up to $11,000. There is an emergency exception that allows you to use your hand-held mobile telephones if necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

Research shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) is 6 times greater for CMV drivers who engage in dialing a mobile telephone while driving than for those who do not. Dialing drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of 3.8 seconds. At 55 mph (or 80.7 feet per second), this equates to a driver traveling 306 feet, the approximate length of a football field, without looking at the roadway.

Your primary responsibility is to operate a motor vehicle safely. To do this, you must focus your full attention on the driving task.

2.9.3 – Texting

49 CFR Parts 383, 384, 390, 391, and 392 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) prohibits testing by commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers while operating in interstate commerce, and implements new driver disqualification sanctions for drivers of CMVs who fail to comply with this Federal prohibition; or who have multiple convictions for violating a State or local law or ordinance on motor vehicle traffic control that prohibits texting while driving. Additionally, motor carriers are prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to engage in texting while driving.

Texting means manually entering text into or reading text from an electronic device. This includes, but is not limited to, short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a World Wide Web page, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication.

Electronic device includes, but is not limited to, a cellular telephone; personal digital assistant; pager; computer; or any other device used to enter, write, send, receive, or read text.

Your CDL will be disqualified after two or more convictions of any state law on texting while operating a CMV. Disqualifications is 60 days for the second offense within 3 years and 120 days for three or more offenses within 3 years. In addition, the first and each subsequent violation of such a prohibition are subject to civil penalties imposed on such drivers, in an amount up to $2,750. No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to engage in texting while driving. There is an emergency exception that allows you to text if necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

Evidence shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) is 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who engage in textng while driving that for those who do not. Sending or receiving text takes your eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, you would travel 371 feet, or the length of an entire football field – without looking at the roadway.

2.9.4 – Watch Out for Other Distracted Drivers

You need to be able to recognize other drivers who are engaged in any form of driving distraction. Not recognizing other distracted drivers can prevent you from perceiving or reacting correctly in time to prevent a crash. Watch for:

  • Vehicles that may drift over the lane divider lines or within their own lane.
  • Vehicles traveling at inconsistent speeds.
  • Drivers who are preoccupied with maps, food, cigarettes, cell phones, or other objects.
  • Drivers who appear to be involved in conversations with their passengers.

Give a distracted driver plenty of room and maintain your safe following distance.

Be very careful when passing a driver who seems to be distracted. The other driver may not be aware of your presence, and they may drift in front of you.