In recent years, Georgia has seen an increase in accidents involving drivers under 25 years old, rear-end accidents, and single-vehicle accidents. In Georgia, over 70 drivers are hurt in accidents every hour. In 2017 alone, Georgia saw 1,549 accident fatalities. Many of these accidents are caused by distracted drivers. As a result, Georgia enacted the Hands-Free Georgia Act. .
As attorneys in Augusta, Georgia, our lawyers handle the criminal defense of people charged with violating Georgia’s hands free law, and we represent people injured in car accidents that were a result of texting and driving.
When will law enforcement start enforcing the hands free law?
Sometimes, a law is enacted on a certain day, but a grace period is provided before the law will be enforced. But for Georgia’s new hands free law, there is not a grace period for enforcement. The hands free law took effect on July 1, 2018, so Georgia drivers can expect a ticket if they’re using their phones while driving.
Which states have banned cell phone use while driving?
Georgia is the 16th state to enact a hands free law. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia have all banned drivers from using cellphones while driving.
Do I have to buy a hands free device?
Under Georgia law, you are not required to purchase a hands free device so you don’t have to run out and buy a mount today. If you do not have a hands free device, you can simply leave your phone on the passenger seat, on the console, in the armrest, or in the pocket of the driver’s door. Just to be on the safe side, we recommend that you use a bluetooth device, headset, or phone mount while driving.
Can I listen to Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, or other music apps while driving?
Yes, drivers can still use their phones or other devices to play music while driving, as long as they do not touch their devices to open an app or change the song. Even if you are temporarily stopped at a traffic light or stop sign, you cannot touch your phone or device. If you don’t have a good playlist, now is the time to make one. Otherwise, unless your device is controlled by the car’s radio, you might have to pull over and park to select a new song or station. Keep in mind that drivers may not use video apps like YouTube to play music because the hands free law prohibits drivers from watching or streaming videos while driving.
Can I use an iPod, tablet, iPad, or deactivated cell phone while driving?
Georgia’s hands free law prohibits the use of all wireless communication devices and stand alone electronic devices. Generally, when we think of wireless communication devices, we think of our cellphones. However, the law also prohibits the use of iPads, iPods, tablets, computers, mp3 players, and gps devices.
Can I hold my phone in my hand while driving if I’m not using it?
As the name of the law implies, drivers may not hold their phones in hand while driving. This is the case even if drivers are not actively using their phones. In fact, drivers cannot hold or support phones or other electronic devices with any part of the body.
Can I talk on the phone while driving?
Yes. Drivers may use headsets, bluetooth devices, earpieces, or watches to talk on the phone. Drivers may also touch their phones to answer or end a call or to dial a number as long as the driver is not holding or supporting the phone. However, Georgia drivers may not use electronic devices or phones to write, send, read, or record except when when using voice-to-text functions to control vehicle navigation. While drivers may use headsets to talk on the phone, they cannot use them to listen to music or other audio while driving.
How is Georgia’s texting and driving law different from Georgia’s hands free law?
Georgia’s previous texting and driving law, which was enacted in 2010, prevented distracted driving by prohibiting drivers from reading or sending texts and emails while driving. However, in 2018, Georgia lawmakers decided that enforcing the texting and driving law was too difficult because law enforcement officers had trouble determining whether drivers were unlawfully texting. As a result, Georgia enacted a new hands free law that prohibits drivers from holding their phones and other stand-alone electronic devices.
Can I use my cell phone or tablet while stopped at a traffic light?
Temporarily stopping at a traffic light or stop sign will not suffice under Georgia’s new hands free law. Drivers may not use their devices unless they are completely parked. Drivers may use their devices if they are reporting an emergency, accident, or acting as an emergency responder.
What are the penalties for violating Georgia’s hands free law?
If you are charged with violating Georgia’s hands free law for the first time, you will likely be assessed a $50 fine, and one point could be added to your driver’s license. On the first offense, in certain circumstances, the court may dismiss the ticket if you show proof that you’ve purchased a hands free device. On the second conviction, you can be fined up to $100, and two points could go on your license. On the third conviction and any convictions thereafter, you can be fined up to $150, and 3 points could be added to your license. Drivers should remember that points on your license could mean higher insurance rates. Accumulating 15 points on your license in a two year period could result in a suspension of your right to drive.
Does the hands free law apply to commercial drivers?
Commercial drivers must be properly licensed and in operation of a commercial vehicle. Commercial drivers may use one button to begin or end a phone call. Commercial drivers are prohibited from reaching for their phones or devices if doing so requires them to be improperly restrained by a seat belt or requires the driver to no longer be seated in the proper position.
How does the hands free law apply to school bus drivers?
School bus drivers are highly trained and tested because they have the important job of transporting and protecting children. School bus drivers are prohibited from using two-way radios or wireless telecommunication devices while loading or unloading passengers. Drivers are permitted to use wireless telecommunication devices while the bus in in motion to allow live communication between the driver and the school and/or public safety officials.
In summary, here is what is legal and what’s not while driving or temporarily stopped:
- Dialing a phone number
- Starting and ending a call
- Talking on speakerphone
- Wearing a headset to talk on the phone
- Use of bluetooth device or Bluetooth through the vehicle
- Smartwatch phone calls
- GPS/Navigation with voice
- Filming with mounted dash cam
- Setting up music apps while parked
- Calling 911 or otherwise reporting an incident to emergency personnel
- Texting or emailing from any device
- Holding a phone or other electronic device using any part of the body
- Listening to music through a headset or earpiece
- Scrolling Social media
- Adjusting music apps with your hands
- Viewing the internet
- Watching videos
- Recording a video
- Video calls (FaceTime, Skype, etc)
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver or has been charged with violating Georgia’s hands free law, contact the lawyers at Davis, Chapman, & Wilder, LLC for a complimentary case evaluation.