Beginning on July 1, 2018, the Hands-Free Georgia Act goes into effect. It affects what you can and can’t do with your phone while driving, and is designed to prevent car accidents and personal injuries. The law applies all across Georgia. Here’s what this new law means for you:
The big thing is that you can no longer “hold or support” your phone or any other electronic wireless device (such as an iPod or Garmin) while driving. This includes having your phone in your lap, in your hand, or touching any other part of your body while you drive.
What Can’t You Do with Your Phone while Driving in Georgia?
Texting while driving has already been prohibited since 2010, and you still can’t text, but now you also cannot do any of the following while driving:
- Dial a phone number
- Use FaceTime or Skype, or any similar “video telepathy” app
- Answer an email
- Take a video
- Change your Spotify or Apple Music playlist or other music streaming app
- Change or select an audiobook or podcast
- Select a destination on a GPS system or mapping app like Google Maps or Waze
- Scroll through Instagram or Facebook
- Create or watch Snapchats
- Use headphones, headsets, or other earpieces to listen to music
Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators and School Bus Drivers have additional restrictions.
What Can You Do with Your Phone while Driving in Georgia?
You may use your phone to do these things while “legally parked.” However, you are not “legally parked” while waiting at a red light or suffering Atlanta’s impossible traffic – even if you have been in a standstill on 285 for an hour, and we know you will be.
There is an exception to this rule that allows you to hold your phone while driving if you need to report a traffic accident, hazardous road condition, medical emergency, fire, or crime. Emergency personnel, police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, and other first responders are also exempt from the hands-free requirement while on duty.
You can still do the following:
- Speak on the phone or send a text message using hands-free technology (if you’re like me and you don’t have a car with hands-free capabilities, you can use headphones to speak on the phone, but remember you cannot dial a number while driving, and you can only pick up a phone call while driving if you can do so by pressing just one button on your phone. If you have to stand up or unbuckle to grab your phone, you cannot pick up that call).
- Use a GPS system or mapping app like Google Maps or Waze (you just have to choose where you are going before you start driving. Remember, being stopped at a light is not the same as being parked, and you cannot use that time to select a route).
- Listen to music streaming apps, so long as you activate and program the app while you are legally parked.
- Use a built-in in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system (like OnStar)
- Wear and use a smartwatch
- Use the radio, CB radios, commercial two-way radios, ham radios
- Use prescribed medical devices
What Happens if You Misuse Your Phone while Driving in Georgia?
First time offenders will receive 1 point on their license, and a $50 fine. Each offense after that adds a point and another $50 dollars – so your second offense is 2 points and a $100 dollar fine, and your third is 3 points and a $300 dollar fine.
While some people say this law feels like an inconvenience, similar laws have been put into place in the following states: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Illinois, West Virginia, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Washington D.C., and Maryland. In 13 of these 15 states, there was a 16% decrease in traffic deaths – and a decrease in traffic deaths is a big win for all of us. Stay safe out there and stay hands-free!
The full Hands-Free Georgia Act can be found at: https://www.gahighwaysafety.org/highway-safety/hands-free-law/
Something to think about: many states are adopting an increase in auto insurance premiums as a penalty for texting while driving. So not only does distracted driving endanger lives, but one may be paying for texting and driving for many years to come.
Butler Law Firm is a personal injury law firm in Georgia handling cases involving truck accidents, car accidents, sexual assaults, and other cases in which a person has been harmed and needs help.