On July 1, 2018, Georgia’s Hands-Free Law took effect. This means that drivers can only talk on their phones while driving if they use hands-free technology. The law also specifically prohibits a number of other practices. The Hands-Free Law was passed in response to increases in the number of crashes, fatalities, and injuries.
Statistics showed the crashes were rear-end accidents, crashes by young drivers, and single-car crashes. They were believed to be due to driver inattention. History shows that the 15 states which passed hands-free laws witnessed a 16 percent decrease in fatalities after two years. Road deaths decreased even further in subsequent years. Lawmakers wanted to make the roads in Georgia safer.
An Explanation of Georgia’s Hands-Free Law from a Douglasville Car Accident Lawyer
Under the new law, drivers can still talk on the phone. However, they have to use Bluetooth, headphones, speakerphone or an earpiece to communicate. Here are some of the specific provisions of the law.
- Drivers can’t hold their phone in their hand or have it touching any part of their body while talking.
- Drivers can’t write text messages, emails or social media posts or read them while driving. Voice to text technology is allowed under the law.
- Drivers can’t watch videos or use electronic devices to record videos. The only exceptions are continuously running dash cams.
- Drivers can listen to streaming music as long as there is no video showing on the screen of their device. They can’t touch their phones to activate or adjust a music app. If they must program their streaming app, they should do it before getting on the road.
Exceptions to the Hands-Free Law
The rules above apply to most drivers and situations but there are exceptions.
Georgia’s hands-free law does not apply to certain electronic communication devices. Drivers can continue to use:
- Citizens band radio,
- Citizens band radio hybrid
- Commercial two-way radio communication device or equivalent
- Subscription-based emergency communication device
- Prescribed medical device,
- Amateur or ham radio device
- In-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system
There are also certain special circumstances in which drivers can use their cellphones. For example, drivers can report a crash, medical emergency, fire, crime or hazardous road conditions. There are also exceptions for:
- Utility service provider workers responding to an emergency
- First responders in the performance of their duties.
- Drivers in a legally parked vehicle. This does not include vehicles stopped at traffic lights or stop signs.
Penalties for Violating the Law
Drivers who get caught breaking the law face fines and demerit points on their driver’s license. For a first conviction, the fine is $50 and one point is assessed against the license. Second offenses are punishable by a fine of $100 and two demerit points. Three or more convictions lead to a fine of $150 and three demerit points. The fines for second and third offenses only apply when the conviction takes place within 24 months of the first conviction. First-time offenders may be able to get the charges dropped. They would have to show the court they have obtained hands-free technology or devices.
How to Ensure You Comply with Georgia’s Hands-Free Law
The above penalties may not seem particularly strict. However, you must remember the intent behind the law. The aim is to reduce the number of people in Georgia who are hurt or killed in vehicle accidents. Even if you can easily pay the fine, you should comply with the law to make the roads safer.
To ensure compliance, you should:
- Put your phone away when you’re driving. Phones can be very distracting and most calls or messages are not urgent. Focus on controlling your vehicle and return calls when you have stopped safely.
- Set your phone to pick up automatically when it rings. That way, you won’t miss important calls but you won’t need to pick up your phone or look at it.
- Use Bluetooth technology. Most modern cars come equipped with Bluetooth. If you have an older car, you can purchase an adapter so you can benefit from hands-free technology.
- Mount a GPS device in a spot where you can clearly see it. You won’t be able to hold your phone and check for directions.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Douglasville for Assistance
If you have been injured by a driver who was breaking Georgia’s Hands-Free Laws, you may need an attorney. The law is still quite new and you may not be sure how to proceed. Contact the car accident attorneys at the Law Office of John B. Jackson today. Let’s discuss how we can help you with your case. We can work to prove the driver was holding their phone or fiddling with the CPS. Call us today for a consultation.