Beginning on July 1, 2018, the state of Georgia enacted a new law designed to lower the devastating effects of distracted driving in the Peach State. Signed by former Governor Nathan Deal, House Bill 673, the Hands-Free Georgia Act, requires drivers to use hands-free technology in order to use their cell phone or smartphone while behind the wheel.
Georgia’s New Hands-Free Cell Phone Law
Effective July 1, 2018
|Using voice-text features (like Siri)||Texting or emailing|
|Using hands-free technology (headphones or through car connectivity)||Reading a text message or email|
|Using a GPS system or mapping app||Picking a song on your iPod or phone|
|Using radios||Leaning over for an out-of-reach device|
|Using your phone to report an accident||Watching a video/Looking at pictures|
|Calling 911||Taking pictures or a video|
|Using your phone when parked||Using your phone at a stoplight|
The new law states that holding a cell phone or electronic device in your hand while driving is against law. Period. This means talking, testing, taking a picture, watching or recording a video and any other activity where you’re holding a mobile device is now illegal in the state of Georgia.
According to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(a)(3):
‘Wireless telecommunications device’ means a cellular telephone, a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver, or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data. Such term shall not include a radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription based emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system.
There are a few exceptions to this rule.
For instance, Georgia drivers are still allowed to use a cell phone so long as it’s done using hands-free technology. Using a GPS system or app is also acceptable. Holding a cell phone is also legal if you need to report an accident or there’s another emergency while you’re driving.
This law doesn’t apply individuals who are performing professional duties like police officers or other emergency personnel. It does, however, apply to school bus drivers.
This isn’t the first time the state of Georgia has taken steps to stop distracted driving with cell phones. In 2010, texting while driving became a criminal offense; however, law enforcement believed the law to be difficult to enforce, and traffic fatalities in the state have increased over the past few years.
This new law has some Georgia residents concerned. With a fine of up to $150 for multiple offenses, some citizens think that being unable to touch their device is taking the law too far.
In addition to the points on your driver’s license, getting caught breaking the law is considered a misdemeanor with the following punishments:
- First offense in a 24 month period involves a maximum $50.00 fine
- Second offense in a 24 month period involves a maximum $100.00 fine
- Third or more offense in a 24 month period involves a maximum $150.00 fine
Whether or not the new legislation will help decrease the number of fatal accidents in Georgia remains to be seen. Just be sure you’re not got red-handed holding your cell phone behind the wheel!
Georgia Employers Take Note
This wide sweeping law doesn’t just impact citizens, but also employers.
Companies should amend their employee handbooks and safety policies to inform their employees — particularly those whose duties involve driving — about this new law and its implications. Workers, too, should note this new law and tell their employer about it if they aren’t aware.