Georgia passed a “hands-free” law in July 2018. The law is clear about restricting almost all cellphone use while driving. Before 2018, the law banned only texting.
If you have not been up to date on this law or spoken with a personal injury lawyer, you may be unaware of the implications.
Most drivers are fully aware of the dangers of using a cell phone, texting, or searching on the web while driving. Just a moment of distracted driving can be enough to cause a collision, injury, or even death.
What Does Hands-Free Mean For Georgia Drivers?
The Georgia Code § 40-6-241 (2018) defines the specific restrictions on operating wireless telecommunication devices and stand-alone electronic devices. The code also covers exceptions and penalties.
The law applies to adults and teen drivers. Drivers are not allowed to hold the phone in their hand, between the ear and shoulder, or have the phone touching any body part. A hands-free device is required to make calls while driving.
The law also defines that drivers may not read, write, or send emails or text messages when on the road. Similarly, drivers cannot read or post to social media or run web searches while driving. Watching and recording videos are excluded. Phone use to open streaming services, skip songs, alter playlists, or adjust the volume is also prohibited.
These guidelines apply even if the car is not in motion or stopped at a stoplight. Drivers may use their phones if sitting in a legal parking spot.
Exceptions to the Rule in Georgia
Fortunately, there are some exceptions.
For instance, first responders and emergency utility employees can use phones when responding to emergencies. Drivers can use a phone if they need to report an emergency, traffic accident, or crime.
For music lovers, you can control music through your car’s stereo. Just be sure you do not touch your phone. Similarly, you can use the phone to get directions with a GPS app.
Texting can be accomplished with a voice-to-text app.
Knowing these guidelines may help you stay within the law and avoid distracted driving.
How to Avoid Distraction While Driving
The hands-free law defines specific technology distractions. However, while driving, it is important to avoid what could be termed general distractions.
General ‘distraction’ goes beyond the use of technology. This may include personal grooming such as putting on makeup, shaving, reading, writing, taking care of children, and tending to pets.
Most drivers are aware that technology is distracting and illegal to use when on the road. Yet, many people do not realize that daily routines such as eating, grooming, and taking care of pets can be highly distracting. These activities can cause a driver to lose focus on the road. The state laws are open to interpretation, and police can pull you over if they see you are violating the state distracted driving law.
Stay Safe and Follow the Hands-Free Law
The fine in Georgia for a first conviction is $50.00, and one point is assessed against the driver’s license. The fine for a second conviction is $100 and two points and $150 and three points for three or more convictions.
Georgia law offers first offenders a way to resolve the fine. Charges may be dropped if first-time offenders show the court that they have obtained a phone that enables them to operate with hands-free technology or devices.