Georgia’s Hands-Free LawOn July 1, 2018, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the Hands-Free Georgia Act into law. Simply put, holding electronic devices in your hand while driving is now against the law in Georgia. The primary aim of the law is to reduce accidents caused by drivers who are distracted by their cell phone while driving. Punishment for disregarding the new law can include fines of up to $150 for those with multiple offenses and up to 3 points on your driver’s license. Despite the debates over how effective the Act would be in decreasing accidents, statistics show that tickets are up and accidents are down. It’s reported that state agencies issued over 25,000 tickets in the first year of the law’s implementation. This is an average of 68 tickets per day (not including local agency data). Admittedly, a hands-free law is difficult to enforce. Nonetheless, it certainly helps keep honest people honest and therefore lowers the overall number of distracted drivers on Georgia’s roads.
Below is a summary of the restrictions and allowances under the new hands-free law in Georgia.
Cell phone restrictions and allowancesWhen it comes to cell phone usage while driving, the Hands-Free Georgia Act is relatively clear and easy to understand. For an exhaustive and detailed explanation on the subject, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia provides all specifics available on the subject here. In this article, we’ll breakdown the key changes into convenient bullet points that speak directly to the most common questions on the topic:
- Can I rest my phone on my lap? No. The Hands-Free Georgia Act addresses this issue specifically. Under Code Section 40-6-241, the law states that: “(c) While operating a motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall: (1) Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body a: (A) Wireless telecommunications device.”
- What about earpieces? Yes. Earpieces are allowed. However, the answer to the first question clearly states that you aren’t allowed to have an electronic communication device touch any part of our body. So how are earpieces allowed? Only thanks to an exception specified in the Act. Under the same Code Section 40-6-241, we find that that “(A) that such exclusion shall not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication (Smartphone watch); or (B) Stand-alone device.”
- Am I allowed to type text? No. Code Section 40-6-241(c) expressly states that “While operating a motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall (2) Write, send or read any text-based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.”
- Am I allowed to voice text? Yes. Further reading of the above section on texting from 40-6-241 does indicate that voice messaging is allowed. The hands-free prohibition on texting does NOT apply to “(A) A voice-based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form; or (B) the use of such device for navigation of such vehicles for global positioning system purposes.”
- Are there exceptions to the hands-free rule? Yes. The hands-free law doesn’t apply if you are reporting an accident or crime if you are an emergency responder and performing official duties, or if you are in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked. All these exceptions are covered under Code Section 40-6-241 (C) (2)(g)(1-4).