July 1st is a big day for drivers throughout Georgia. That’s the day that the long awaited, much anticipated Hands Free Georgia Act goes into effect. This article is to explain the law; what it is, what it means for you and what to do if you break the law or if you have been injured by a distracted driver.
Hands Free Georgia Act – the Law
The Hands Free Georgia Act has been in the making for quite some time. The purpose behind this law is to curb distracted driving and ultimately reduce the number of traffic fatalities on Georgia’s highways caused by drivers playing with their cell phones, answering texts, making calls or reading Facebook.
In 2017 there were 1549 traffic accidents resulting in fatalities. In response, provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation, many cities around Georgia began to enact their own ordinances which prevented the use of electronic devices while behind the wheel. Rather than have a variety of confusing laws throughout the State, Georgia enacted the Hands Free Act.
The Act provides that drivers no longer be “behind the wheel” while holding a phone or other wireless electronic device, unless making an emergency call. The following are prohibited actions as listed on Governors Office of Highway Safety
- A driver cannot have a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone. Drivers can only use their phones to make or receive phone calls by using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, phone is connected to vehicle or an electronic watch. GPS navigation devices are allowed.
- Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes and not for listening to music or other entertainment.
- A driver may not send or read any text-based communication unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS
- A driver may not write, send or read any text messages, e-mails, social media or internet data content
- A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
- A driver may not record a video (continuously running dash cams are exempt)
- Music streaming apps can be used provided the driver activates and programs them when they are parked. Drivers cannot touch their phones to do anything to their music apps when they are on the road. Music streaming apps that include video also are not allowed since drivers cannot watch videos when on the road. Drivers can listen to and program music streaming apps that are connected to and controlled through their vehicle’s radio.
There are exceptions and exemptions for emergencies situations and for emergency personnel. They are as follows:
1. Reporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity or hazardous road conditions.
2. An employee or contractor of an utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment while responding to an utility
3. A first responder (law enforcement, fire, EMS) during the performance of their official duties.
4. When in a lawfully parked vehicle—this DOES NOT include vehicles stopped for traffic signals and stop signs on the public roadway.
What Does This Mean For You As a Driver
Beginning July 1, all drivers must comply with the new law. It is important to note that with this new law, there is NO grace period. Officers have an option to issue warnings, however, they can and will also have the ability to ticket under this new law as well. As a driver, you may be ticketed for this infraction whether or not you are stopped for another offense or in an accident.
If you receive a ticket for this offense alone, the fines are as follows:
? First conviction: $50, one point on a license;
? Second conviction: $100, two points on a license;
Third and subsequent convictions: $150, three points on a license.
What Should You Do?
Having points added to your license can be a big deal. Points can lead to a suspended license. If you are ticketed for more than one traffic violation at a time, these can add up quickly.
Contact Us for Solutions
David Crawford knows how traffic accidents and negligence can affect your life and the lives of those you love. If you or someone you know has been injured by a distracted driver, contact David to find out your legal options. You can reach us by completing our online form.