The Hands-Free Georgia Act: A Summary

Categories: Car Accidents

Distracted Driving - Van Sant Law

On May 2, 2018, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the Hands-Free Georgia Act, which was designed to make the roads safer by reducing incidents of distracted driving. While there are mixed feelings about the new law, it essentially expands on the existing texting ban by adding hand-held phone use to the list of prohibited activities while operating a motor vehicle.

Because the law went into effect July 1, it is important that Georgia drivers understand how to abide by the new rules to avoid incurring penalties.

The Reason Behind the New Law

The Hands-Free Georgia Act was created to reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted driving, particularly those involving younger drivers from 15 to 25 years old. In 2017, Georgia had 1,549 accident fatalities, and lawmakers believe the new legislation could lower that number by 250. There is good reason to predict this – in states with similar hands-free laws, there has been a 16 percent decrease in accident deaths.

The Nitty Gritty Details

Many Georgians are struggling to understand the details of the new law. At the most basic level, hands-free communication is allowed, but supporting a phone or electronic device with your body and doing anything on a physical phone other than using GPS, dialing a number and starting or ending a call is prohibited. Here’s a more specific breakdown of what is and isn’t allowed:

 

Legal

  • Hand dialing a phone number
  • Starting and ending a call by hand
  • Talking on speakerphone
  • Wearing an earpiece or wireless headphone
  • Bluetooth and other hands-free phone use through the vehicle
  • Smartwatch phone calls
  • Voice-based technology used for navigation or dictating and reading texts
  • GPS
  • Filming with a continuously running dash cam
  • Setting up music apps while parked
  • Calling 911 or otherwise reporting an incident to emergency personnel
Illegal

  • Holding a phone or other electronic device using any part of your body (hand, neck, shoulder, lap, etc.) while driving or stopped on the road
  • Texting
  • Emailing
  • Using social media
  • Browsing the internet
  • Listening to music through an earpiece or headphones
  • Adjusting music apps
  • Watching TV and movies
  • Filming a video
  • Making video calls

Legal Consequences

Penalties for the brand-new law aren’t too severe, which means no Georgian teenagers are going to lose their summer savings because they were caught tweeting at a traffic light. Still, they are harsh enough to dissuade drivers and immediately enforceable as of July 1. The consequences include:

  • First offense – $50 fine and one point on license
  • Second offense – $100 fine and two points on license
  • Third offense – $150 fine and three points on license 

Arguments on Both Sides

According to a survey conducted by Landmark Communications, Inc. and cited by Rep. John Carson, 66.4 percent of Georgian voters are in favor of the new law, and 21.9 percent are simply undecided, leaving relatively few detractors. However, some Georgians are concerned that being unable to use hand-held phones will negatively impact their ability to do business while on the road, especially if they have an older car.

Others don’t believe additional laws will help police enforce the rules. Still more think the new law oversimplifies the discussion on distracted driving. After all, studies have found that hands-free phone calls are still distracting, even after hanging up. They may not distract a driver visually or manually, but they do take one’s mind off driving. 

Seeking Justice After a Car Accident With Van Sant Law, LLC

The truth is, even with the Hands-Free Georgia Act, there are many distracted drivers in the state who put your life at risk every day. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident due to the carelessness of a distracted driver, you may be entitled to legal compensation.

At Van Sant Law, LLC, we work hard to build a compelling case to achieve the best possible results for you. Our attorneys are dedicated to our clients, which is why we have a 10.0 rating on Avvo.

If you’re ready to trust in a law firm that has your best interests at heart, call (855) GA-INJURY for your FREE consultation!