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.
The law seems to be more about money than safety. Recently I was told by an officer that I should stare at my map app on my center console instead of holding it where I can also see the road. This must be Georgia’s way of getting money from tourists. All twenty or so people that were pulled over with me were all out of state drivers.
Eric Larson says
I love the law I’m not saying I disagree with the law I just wish the fines were a lot harsh like let’s say $500-1,000
Eric Larson says
I love the law I’m not saying I disagree with the law I just wish the fines were a lot harsh like let’s say $500-$1,000
Curtis Allred says
My grandmother doesn’t agree with the hands-free law. She feels like we should be given the freedom to be able to use a cell phone and talk on it while driving.
Melissa Gold says
Hi, Curtis. Unfortunately, not every citizen agrees with every law, but every citizen has to follow them (or suffer the consequences). When it comes to laws related to driving, they’re usually for both the driver’s safety and the safety of other road users. There’s significant research showing that driving while using a mobile phone is as dangerous a driving drunk — and hopefully your grandmother wouldn’t do that. Please do encourage her to follow the law for her safety, everyone else’s safety, and because even grandmas get tickets.
Jerry Chandler says
I use the speaker function on my phone to talk to people while driving. If the phone is on the console or in a cup holder I still have to press a button on the phone to answer a call. Is that illegal? Sometimes while stopped at a traffic light I might pick up the phone to speak into it to make a call, like “Siri call my mom” and then put the phone back down in the cup holder or on the console. Is that illegal?
Ian Pisarcik says
Thanks for the comment.
Under the statute, it is ILLEGAL to “physically hold or support, with any part of [your] body a wireless telecommunication device.” However, it is LEGAL to use “a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication” so long as doing so doesn’t require you to no longer be in a seated driving position.
So, to answer your questions, it’s okay to press the button to answer a call while the phone is in the cup holder. It’s not okay to pick up the phone to make a call.
On day one, I was ticketed for using my phone at a stop light to reinitiate my GPS after it disconnected along my route. I explained this to the cop who pulled me over. And on this graphic, it states using a GPS or mapping app is legal. What proof can I provide a court solicitor with after a non guilty plea to back up my case?