On May 2nd, 2018, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law the “Hands Free Georgia Act”. The law takes effect July 1st, 2018 and will require the use of hands free technology for mobile electronic devices while driving. A wireless device includes phones, personal digital assistant, laptops, tablets, GPS receivers or any similar portable devices to send/receive data or communications. 

A driver may not:

  • Hold or support any such device with any part of their body
  • Write, send, or read any text based communication
  • Watch or record a video using a portable electronic device

A vehicle must be lawfully parked (not stopped at a red light) in order for a driver to use a hand held electronic device.

The law applies to hand held devices and not installed vehicle equipment such as Bluetooth, voice to text systems, navigation systems, etc.

The new law does not apply to any driver using a device as noted above to report a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, crime, or hazardous road condition. There is some specific law information as well relating to School Bus Operations and Commercial Drivers. Additional information and FAQ can be found at http://www.headsupgeorgia.com/handsfree-law/

Every driver in Georgia should become familiar with the full specifics of the law and their own circumstances as a driver.  Officers can issue violations starting July 1 as there is no formal grace period; however, they do have the option of issuing warnings as they feel appropriate to educate motorist on the new law. A first offense in a 24 month period is a maximum $50.00 fine/one point penalty on an individual’s driver’s license. The second offense in the same 24 months is $100.00 maximum fine/two point penalty. The third offense within 24 months is $150.00 / three points.

Georgia now becomes the 16th State to enact Hands Free Legislation in an on-going effort to reduce vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities associated with Distracted Driving. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports each day in the United States approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. While there are many potential distractions that could lead to a vehicle accident, the use of hand held electronic devices are a significant distraction and the target of this new legislation.

Hands-free driving does not mean risk free driving! Cell phone conversations while driving, even when done hands free, remain a major distraction. The best mobile device policy an employer or organization can implement is to prohibit all use while driving. 

This new legislation comes at a time where GA drivers are seeing increasing insurance premiums. We can only hope that this will help minimize car accidents, maximize safety, and eventually make those auto premiums go back down to more reasonable rates.

And if you think Georgia is bad, New York drivers suffer even higher penalties if caught texting and driving.

photo credit: WSB-TV

 

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