Driving Undistracted: How Georgia’s Hands-Free Law Affects Distracted Driving

Georgia’s Hands Free Law was designed to combat distracted driving, but what has been its actual impact on road safety? Since 2018, drivers in Georgia have had to adapt to new rules prohibiting the use of handheld devices behind the wheel. This article provides a straightforward analysis of how Georgia’s Hands Free Law affects distracted driving, based on traffic data and legal outcomes. It reveals the essential ways in which this legislation has reshaped driving habits and improved road safety.

Key Takeaways

  • Georgia’s Hands-Free Law, enacted on July 1, 2018, strictly prohibits the physical handling of wireless devices while driving, aiming to reduce distracted driving incidents. Exceptions are provided for emergency situations, certain professionals during duty, and lawful parking circumstances.
  • The law’s implementation has contributed to a decrease in distracted driving fatalities, with 82 in 2017 dropping to 43 in 2019. Strict law enforcement has led to more convictions for distracted driving, implying enhanced road safety.
  • Violations of the Hands-Free Law result in fines, points on the driver’s license, and potentially increased insurance premiums. These penalties are intended to deter distracted driving and encourage adherence to the law, thus promoting safer driving practices.

Understanding Georgia’s Hands-Free Driving Laws

Georgia’s Hands-Free Driving Laws, also known as the Hands-Free Georgia Act, were enacted to combat the rise in distracted driving incidents. Prior to the Act, law enforcement faced difficulties in enforcing the previous texting while driving law. To resolve this, the Act came into effect on July 1, 2018, and has since been strictly enforced without a grace period.

The core of the Hands Free Law, as the name suggests, is to minimize any form of distraction due to the use of wireless devices while driving. Under this law, a ‘wireless telecommunications device’ is defined as:

  • cell phones
  • text-messaging devices
  • personal digital assistants
  • standalone computers
  • GPS receivers

‘Stand-alone electronic device’ refers to devices that store audio or video data files for user retrieval on demand and are not included in the definition of a wireless telecommunications device.

The law explicitly prohibits Georgia drivers from:

  • holding or supporting with any part of their body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device while driving
  • writing, sending, or reading any text-based communication, with exceptions for voice-based communication that is converted automatically to text and for GPS navigation purposes
  • watching or recording videos, or filming broadcasts, unless the video is for navigational purposes.

However, the law does allow for some exceptions. Drivers are permitted to touch their phones to dial, receive, or end phone calls but cannot hold the phone. Georgia drivers need to comprehend these laws to avoid unintentional violations while driving.

The Core of the Hands Free Law

Georgia’s Hands-Free Law primarily targets reducing distractions by imposing a strict ban on the use of cell phones while driving. This means that drivers are specifically prohibited from physically holding or supporting a wireless telecommunications device with any part of their body while operating a vehicle.

On the brighter side, the law does not completely cut off drivers from their cell phone devices. Legally, drivers can make or receive calls using hands-free technology, which includes:

  • Speakerphone
  • Earpieces
  • Wireless headphones
  • Vehicle audio systems
  • Electronic watch

Incorporating these hands-free solutions ensures that drivers can stay connected without compromising their attention on the road.

Exceptions That Apply

Despite its comprehensiveness, the Hands-Free Law has certain exceptions. For instance, employees or contractors of a utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment are exempt from the hands-free restrictions when responding to a utility emergency.

In addition to that, first responders, such as law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, are not subject to the hands-free restrictions while performing their official duties. Drivers are also permitted to use electronic devices to:

  • report a traffic accident
  • report a medical emergency
  • report a fire
  • report criminal acts
  • report serious traffic or safety hazards

Interestingly, the hands-free law does not apply to drivers when operating a vehicle that is lawfully parked. Thus, while the law is strict, it does make allowances for situations where device usage is necessary.

Equipment and Technology Allowed

The Hands-Free Georgia Act, besides imposing restrictions, also specifies the equipment and technology permissible for use while driving. The law permits drivers to use:

  • earpieces
  • headphone devices
  • wrist-worn devices for voice-based communication, including smartwatches
  • wired headsets with microphones
  • Bluetooth wireless headsets
  • in-vehicle communication systems

These hands-free devices are allowed by the law as they are not considered a prescribed medical device.

Emphasizing safety first, the Act encourages the use of voice commands to control phones and other devices, facilitating drivers to maintain their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Furthermore, Georgia law allows drivers to watch GPS navigation videos and does not restrict drivers from using GPS devices while driving, as long as the devices are not held or supported by any part of the body.

For music lovers, drivers are authorized to use the vehicle’s radio for control and listening, but they cannot touch their phones to control music streaming apps while driving. Commercial two-way radio communication devices and citizen band radios, including hybrids, are permitted for use under the Hands-Free Law by drivers. Phones can be placed on the vehicle’s console or front seat, and using phone mounts or brackets is advisable for safety. Drivers without built-in Bluetooth can purchase adapters to comply with hands-free requirements.

Impact on Distracted Driving Rates

The Hands-Free Law, enacted to tackle distracted driving, has been successful in achieving its goal. The number of fatalities related to distracted driving decreased from 82 in 2017 to 43 in 2019 after the implementation of the Hands-Free Georgia Act. Despite the overall increase in roadway fatalities, the law has been successful in ensuring that distracted driving plays a lesser role in traffic accidents.

Prior to the enactment of the law, Georgia saw a high occurrence of single-vehicle accidents and rear-end collisions, which are commonly linked to distracted driving. However, the strict enforcement of the hands-free statute by law enforcement has led to a surge in distracted driving convictions, indicating a heightened focus on reducing such incidents. The law has thus been effective in making our roads safer.

Before and After the Hands Free Act

Prior to the Hands Free Act, Georgia faced a high rate of traffic fatalities, with many linked to distracted driving. However, once the Hands Free Law was implemented, traffic fatalities dropped, demonstrating a significant impact on reducing distracted driving.

Police reports indicate a noteworthy decline in traffic incidents caused by distracted driving following the enactment of the Hands Free Act. The decrease in distracted driving instances can also be attributed to increased education and traffic citations post-enactment. The statistics clearly indicate that the legislation has effectively reduced the number of distracted driving incidents.

Public Safety Officials’ Enforcement Strategies

Public safety officials have enforced the Hands-Free Law rigorously. Georgia law enforcement began enforcing the hands-free law immediately upon its effective date with no grace period. The new law simplifies enforcement by prohibiting the holding of phones and other stand-alone electronic devices, making it easier for officers to spot violations.

The strict enforcement strategies by public safety officials have played a crucial role in reducing distracted driving rates in Georgia.

Legal Consequences of Violating the Hands Free Law

Violating the Hands-Free Law carries certain consequences. Violating the law can result in fines, points on your driver’s license, and even an increase in insurance premiums. Since its inception on July 1, 2018, Georgia’s hands-free law has been actively enforced without a grace period. The fines for a second or third distracted driving offense apply only if the subsequent convictions occur within a 24-month period following an initial conviction.

These legal repercussions act both as a deterrent and a reinforcement of the importance of safe driving habits. It’s not just about obeying the law; it’s about ensuring the safety of all road users.

Fines and Points on Your Driver’s License

Under Georgia’s Hands Free Law, the penalties for using a handheld device while driving are as follows:

  • First conviction: $50 fine and one point on the driver’s license
  • Second conviction: $100 fine and two points on the driver’s license
  • Third and subsequent convictions: $150 fine and three points on the driver’s license

It’s important to note that points remain on a driver’s record in Georgia for two years. The increasing fines and points serve as a strong deterrent, encouraging drivers to adhere to the law and drive responsibly.

Increased Insurance Premiums

In addition to fines and points, violations of the Hands-Free Law can result in heightened insurance premiums. Traffic violations, including points for distracted driving, can lead insurance companies to consider a driver unsafe, which may result in higher insurance premiums due to the increased perceived risk of accidents.

A single violation for texting while driving can add one point to a driver’s license in Georgia and lead to a modest insurance premium increase of approximately $29 each year. When a driver accumulates more points, as two points can lead to an insurance rate boost ranging from 20% to 50%, demonstrating the compounding effect of multiple distracted driving infractions on insurance costs.

Thus, adherence to the Hands-Free Law is not only essential for safety but also for financial reasons.

The Hands Free Law and Special Vehicle Operators

Given the significant responsibilities of special vehicle operators like commercial drivers and school bus drivers on the roads, the Hands-Free Law imposes specific restrictions on them. Commercial motor vehicle operators are prohibited from using more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication. Furthermore, they are not allowed to reach for a wireless telecommunications device in a manner that requires them to no longer be seated in a driving position or properly restrained by a seatbelt.

Meanwhile, school bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving for any purpose other than emergency purposes or to call for assistance when the bus is stationary. The Hands Free Law stipulates that school bus drivers must use the vehicle’s two-way radio for communication purposes while the vehicle is in motion, minimizing potential distractions. This strict enforcement ensures the safety of the passengers they carry, particularly the children in school buses.

Commercial Drivers’ Restrictions

Considering the nature of their work and potential risks, the Hands-Free Law imposes strict regulations on commercial drivers. Under the law, commercial vehicle drivers in Georgia are required to remain properly restrained by a safety belt. This means that commercial drivers are only allowed to use one button to initiate or terminate voice communication to ensure minimal distraction.

Moreover, Georgia’s law restricts commercial drivers from physically holding or supporting a mobile phone while they are driving. These restrictions are in place to ensure that commercial drivers, who often spend long hours on the road, remain attentive and minimize the risk of accidents due to distracted driving.

School Bus Drivers and Wireless Devices

School bus drivers hold a critical responsibility as they carry our most precious cargo – our children. Therefore, the Hands-Free Law places specific restrictions on school bus drivers. They are generally prohibited from using wireless telecommunication devices while operating the bus. This prohibition specifically includes times when school bus drivers are loading or unloading passengers, which is a critical moment for ensuring student safety.

However, an exception to this rule is made for live communication with school and public safety officials via a two-way radio when the bus is in motion. This ensures that they can communicate important information without being distracted from their primary duty – safely transporting children.

Navigating the Hands Free Law: Practical Tips

Although adapting to the Hands-Free Law might initially seem challenging, a few practical tips can simplify its navigation. Demonstrating evidence of acquiring a hands-free device may lead to dismissal of a first-time distracted driving charge. Proactively equipping a vehicle with hands-free technology can help drivers resist the temptation of using their phones while driving.

Moreover, drivers should remain fully attentive to driving and not engage in multitasking, such as adjusting vehicle settings, to adhere to hands-free laws. The use of dash cams by parents to monitor teenage drivers is an example of how technology fosters obedience to hands-free regulations and increases road safety.

Utilizing Hands Free Devices

Numerous methods exist to use hands-free devices in compliance with the law. For instance, installing a phone mount at eye level allows drivers to easily view calls or navigation without the need to hold your phone. Voice to text is also allowed under Georgia’s hands-free law, enabling drivers to send messages without typing manually.

Streaming music without videos is permitted, and it can be controlled through the vehicle’s radio, which is allowed under the law. However, drivers cannot touch the phone to activate or program any music streaming app while on the road. This not only helps drivers remain focused on the road but also ensures they stay within the confines of the law.

Adapting to Hands Free Navigation

Another vital aspect of following the Hands-Free Law is adapting to hands-free navigation. It’s crucial for drivers to enter their destination into their GPS and connect their phone to the vehicle’s Bluetooth system prior to driving to reduce distractions. Pairing the smartphone with the car’s Bluetooth allows for hands-free operation and is a necessary step to take before moving the vehicle.

An exception to the hands-free law permits drivers to use their phones for GPS navigation purposes, ensuring they can stay on route without holding the device. Voice-guided GPS applications are recommended as they provide real-time, auditory turn-by-turn directions, allowing drivers to maintain their focus on the road.

The Role of Technology in Compliance

Technology significantly aids in adhering to the Hands-Free Law. Here are some ways technology can help:

  • Continuously running dash cams are allowed even while driving, as long as it does not distract the driver from the road.
  • Dash cams automatically start and stop recording with the ignition of the car and have loop recording features to preserve recent footage, aiding adherence to the hands-free law.
  • Permanent recording via ‘hotwiring’ dash cams to the battery can ensure continuous monitoring and promote adherence to hands-free driving laws.

In-vehicle remote diagnostics systems, exempt from the hands-free law, can provide real-time vehicle diagnostics and alerts, allowing drivers to focus on driving without manual checks. These systems also contribute to in vehicle security by communicating with fleet management systems to monitor driver behavior, including compliance with hands-free laws, in commercial vehicle operations.


In conclusion, the Hands-Free Georgia Act has been instrumental in reducing distracted driving rates and making our roads safer. From understanding the specifics of the law to navigating it effectively, it’s clear that the law has a significant impact on every driver’s life. It serves as a reminder that while technology can offer convenience, it’s our responsibility to use it wisely and safely, especially while behind the wheel. As drivers, it’s up to us to adhere to these laws not only to avoid penalties but more importantly, to ensure our safety and the safety of others on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the hands-free GA Act make it illegal to do?

The hands-free GA Act makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while using a cell phone in any way that involves holding or supporting it with your body. This law aims to prevent distracted driving and improve road safety.

What are the distracted driving laws in Georgia?

In Georgia, the hands-free law prohibits drivers from using a phone in their hand or supported by their body while on the road, including when stopped at a traffic signal or stop sign. Hands-free device use is allowed for phone calls and navigation.

Do you believe you are distracted if you use hands-free devices while driving?

Yes, using hands-free devices while driving still makes you a distracted driver, even though the incidents of distracted driving accidents has gone done since the hands-free laws have been instituted, studies show that hands-free devices are still a major source for distracted driving.

Which one of the following is allowed under the Georgia hands-free law?

Under the Georgia hands-free law, drivers are allowed to use their phones to make or receive phone calls using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, or if the phone is connected to the vehicle or an electronic watch. GPS navigation devices are also allowed.

What devices are covered under the Hands-Free Georgia Act?

Under the Hands-Free Georgia Act, cell phones, text-messaging devices, personal digital assistants, standalone computers, and GPS receivers are covered. It’s important to be aware of these devices to ensure compliance with the law.