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Top Things to Know about Georgia’s new Hands Free Law

Over the past few years the Georgia legislature has made strides to police and prevent dangerous driving habits such as distracted driving. In furtherance of preventing driving while on an electronic device, Georgia lawmakers recently passed what is known as the “Hands Free Law.” I wrote about Georgia’s texting and driving law here which was the first legislative measure passed to cut down on cell phone use while driving. The new Hands Free Law took effect on July 1, 2018.

This law was passed because we have seen significant increases in vehicle traffic crashes, fatalities, and bodily injury. Increases have been in rear-end crashes, single-car crashes, and crashes by drivers from 15 to 25-years-old which are indicative of driver inattention. Data from other states that have similar laws show a decrease in traffic fatalities after the laws were passed. The complete law can be found at www.gahighwaysafety.org.

TOP THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT GEORGIA’S HANDS FREE LAW

  • A driver cannot use any part of their body to support their phone or have a phone in their hand.
  • Drivers can only make calls by using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, phone is connected to vehicle or an electronic watch. 
  • GPS navigation devices are allowed.
  • Headsets and earpieces cannot be used for listening to music or other entertainment.
  • A driver cannot 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 read e-mails, social media, and internet data content, nor write, send or read any text messages.
  • A driver may not watch a video unless for navigation.
  • A driver may not record a video (dash cams are exempt)
  • Music streaming apps can be used but 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.
  • The hands-free law does NOT apply to the following electronic communication devices:  radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription-based emergency communication device, prescribed medical devices, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system. 

THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS:

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 responding to an emergency.
3.     A first responder such as law enforcement, fire, or EMS during the performance of their official duties. 
4.     When in a lawfully parked vehicle. However, this DOES NOT include vehicles on roadways stopped for traffic signals and stop signs.

ENFORCEMENT

The Hands-Free law took effect July 1, 2018. The Georgia Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement have the option to issue warnings to help educate motorists about the law, however, since the law has been on the books for over a month many are now issuing citations.

PENALTIES

·       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. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I talk on my phone while driving?
Yes, as long as you use your phone’s speakerphone, Bluetooth, an earpiece, a headphone or other device that’s allows communication on a hands-free basis. 

Can I touch my cellphone to dial a number or receive or end a call?
Yes but you are prohibited from holding or supporting the phone with your hands or body.

Am I be required to purchase a hands-free mount?
No. You can use a mount or your phone can be left on your vehicle’s dash, a front seat, in cup holder, etc.

My car does not have Bluetooth. How can I comply with the law?
Bluetooth adapters for vehicles can be purchased at local retailers or online by searching “Bluetooth hands-free car kit” in an internet search engine. 

Can I listen to online radio apps while driving? 
Yes, as long as you do not touch your phone to activate or program a radio app while on the road including being stopped for traffic signals and stop signs.  Music streaming apps that also include video do violate the law.

Can I talk to someone through FaceTime or Skype if doing so “hands-free?”
No. A driver shall not “record or broadcast a video” while operating a vehicle.

If you’ve been involved in an accident in Georgia involving a distracted driver or a driver on their cell phone, call me or fill out my form for a free consultation. I can help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries and damages. By calling (404) 610-4429, you will ensure you will receive proper representation against by the at-fault driver and the insurance companies.

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