Georgia Makes Moves on Cell Phone Usage while Driving
Georgia’s General Assembly passed a bill deemed the “Georgia Hands Free Act,” aimed at keeping drivers safe and distraction free. But what does “hands free” really mean? This law will take into effect on July 1, 2018 and will spell some major changes to the way Georgia drivers operate and may end up costing you money if you are unaware of the legal changes.
The Georgia Hands Free Act will mean drivers cannot legally hold or “support with their body” any part of a telecommunication device while operating a motor vehicle. These telecommunication devices include mobile phones, tablets, laptops and other devices, with the exclusion of GPS and other navigation devices. Essentially, drivers cannot physically interact with any of these devices while driving their vehicle, or they are breaking the law and may receive a ticket.
What about at red lights or when your car is stopped?
The term “Driving” entails all actions when not in a parked position. Meaning, for example, calling someone without a hands free function at a stoplight would be unlawful. Essentially, if you are not in a parking lot, you may not use your phone without the assistance of a hands-free device. Under this law, it is also illegal to reach for a device that would take the driver out of a sitting, driving position restrained by a seat belt.
Outside of speaking on the phone, recording videos, sending, writing, or receiving a text-based communication including emails, text messages or internet data while holding the device will be deemed unlawful at any point while operating a vehicle. While texting and driving was already illegal, this bill will introduce the need for a completely hands-free way of communicating while operating a vehicle, even at a red light.
What is allowed?
Situations that are permitted by this new bill would be speaking or texting using hands-free technology, using a smart watch, utilizing navigation functions, using radios, in-vehicle features, and emergency communication devices. Additionally, there are situations such as reporting an emergency, reporting a hazardous road condition, or unlawful act that would be deemed acceptable. There are also some positions that are exempt from the “hands-free” rule such as police, utility employees, and medical emergency staff.
For drivers with newer cars, set up your phone on your car’s bluetooth feature. Some vehicles allow their owners to import contacts, set up hands-free texting, and other useful services. Set these up before this law passes.
If you do not have a car with bluetooth capabilities, you may be feeling left out in the rain, but there are options that will allow you to still make use of your phone:
- Bluetooth headset
- Bluetooth Carkit
- Phone mount (similar to a GPS mount)
- Voice activated AI services, like Siri or Google Assistant
- Smart Watch
If you are in any situation where you feel you have been wrongly stopped by the police, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.