We all know that using a cell phone while operating a vehicle increases the risk of an accident. Of course, many do so anyway. However, these individuals should this risky behavior is illegal in Georgia. Subject to a few exceptions, motorists in the state are prohibited from using hand-held devices while driving. Yes, that includes cell phones.
The “Hands-Free Georgia Act” took effect statewide in 2018. As a rule of thumb, the law prohibits any activity that requires you to touch your phone while behind the wheel. Read on to learn more about the law, exceptions, and penalties.
Chances are many Georgia drivers continue to use their cell phones while behind the wheel in violation of the law. If you are injured in a crash caused by one of these drivers, you are likely entitled to compensation. The injury attorneys at Butler Kahn are ready to evaluate your case. Call today for a free consultation.
What Is the Hands-Free Georgia Act?
The Hands-Free Act went into effect on July 1, 2018. As the name suggests, the aim of the law is to ensure that drivers keep both hands on the wheel. To that end, it prohibits motorists from holding or otherwise touching their phones with any body part while driving. Specifically, the Hands-Free Act prohibits the following activities while driving:
- Reading, typing, and sending text messages
- Viewing or recording videos
- Posting on social media
- Using the internet
While listening to music on your phone is not prohibited, motorists must use devices that allow for hands-free listening and programming. For instance, a driver can use their phone to listen to music, but they cannot pick up their phone to change the song while driving. Drivers are also prohibited from listening to music through earbuds or headphones.
Similarly, the law does not prohibit drivers from using GPS navigation devices and does not apply to other electronic devices such as radios, prescribed medical devices, and in-vehicle security and navigation systems.
Why Was the Hands-Free Law Enacted?
The Hands-Free Act was passed in reaction to an unusually high number of auto accident fatalities in the preceding year. According to one law review article, there were 1,559 lives lost to roadway fatalities in 2017, the fourth highest count among all states for that year.
In particular, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety explains that there had been an uptick in rear-end collisions, single-vehicle accidents, and collisions involving motorists between the ages of 15 and 25. Georgia authorities made it clear that distracted driving was the leading cause of many of these accidents.
States that had previously implemented similar hands-free driving laws reported a 16 percent decrease in motor vehicle accident fatalities. Georgia passed the Hands-Free Act in the hope of achieving similar results.
Common Injuries Caused by Distracted Drivers
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving leads to thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries each year. Distracted driving at high speeds is particularly dangerous. Some of the most common injuries from accidents involving distracted drivers include:
- Head and brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Facial and dental injuries
- Broken and fractured bones
- Cuts and puncture wounds
- Sprains, strains, bruises
- Loss of limb
- Wrongful death
- Emotional trauma
Exceptions to the Hands-Free Law
There exists a limited exception to the law in the event of an emergency. It is legal to use your phone to dial 911 if you witness a car accident or a crime while behind the wheel. Further, you may use your phone while driving when handling a medical emergency.
You can also use your phone behind the wheel if you are lawfully parked. However, lawful parking does not include being stopped in traffic or at an intersection.
There exist some more specialized exceptions as well. For example, law enforcement, firefighters, and utility workers responding to a utility emergency are all allowed to touch their phones while driving.
Is It Still Legal To Talk on My Phone While Driving?
Yes, if you can do so without touching your phone. For example, you may still make calls while driving if you can use Bluetooth, an earpiece, wireless headphones, or a speakerphone. Wireless headphones and earpieces can be used only to make calls. They may not be used for any other purpose, including listening to music.
Am I Required To Purchase a Hands-Free Accessory?
No. The law does not require you to purchase a hands-free accessory to use your phone. You are simply prohibited from physically handling your phone while driving.
What Are the Fines for Violating the Hands-Free Georgia Act?
The Hands-Free Act penalizes violations using a point system. The more points you accumulate, the harsher the penalties.
If you are convicted of violating the law as a first-time offender, you will have one point added to your license and pay a $50 fine. If you break the law a second time within two years of the first offense, you will have an additional point added and pay a $100 fine.
Finally, if you break the law a third time within two years of the first violation, you will have a third point added and pay a $150 fine. If you are convicted three or more times in a single year, you could face total fines of $300 or more, as well as possible suspension of your driver’s license.
Contact an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer
If you were injured in a car accident in Georgia caused by a distracted driver, you are likely entitled to compensation. Among other things, you could be compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
The legal team at Butler Kahn is committed to defending the rights of injured victims and helping them secure the financial compensation they deserve. If you were injured by a distracted driver, contact our office for a 100 percent free consultation with an Atlanta car accident lawyer today.