Beginning July 1, 2018, it will be illegal for anyone to hold a phone in their hands – or support the phone with any other part of their body – while operating a motor vehicle. Passed by the Georgia legislature as H.B. 673, and signed by Governor Nathan Deal, the law known as the “Hands Free Law” adds Georgia to the growing list of states looking to curb distracted driving by taking the phones out of the hands of drivers.
Hands-Free Law Details
States that have passed similar hands-free laws have seen an average of 16-percent decrease in traffic fatalities. Details of Georgia’s law include:
- Drivers cannot have a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone. Phone calls can only be made or received by drivers using wireless headphones, earpieces, speakerphones, smart watches, or using a vehicle’s connected in-cab technology.
- Operation of GPS navigation devices is allowed.
- Wired or wireless earpieces or headsets must only be used for communication, not for listening to music or other entertainment.
- Drivers are not allowed to send or read any text-based communication, except when utilizing voice-based communication that converts spoken messages automatically to written text – except if being used for navigation or GPS.
- Drivers are not allowed to read, write, or send text messages, e-mails, social media posts, or other internet content.
- Drivers are not allowed to watch video content.
- Drivers are not allowed to record video while driving. Dash cams that continually record automatically are exempt.
- Apps for streaming music are allowed if the driver activates or programs them only while they are safely parked. Drivers must not touch their phones to do anything to music apps when they are operating the vehicle. Drivers can operate music streaming apps that are controlled through their vehicle’s built-in stereo systems.
Exceptions To Georgia’s Hands-Free Law
The following exceptions are provided to the new hands-free law:
- Reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity, or hazardous road conditions.
- Employees or contractors of utility service providers acting within the scope of their employment while responding to utility emergencies.
- Law Enforcement, Firefighters, EMS, and other First Responders during performance of their official duties.
- When in a lawfully-parked vehicle—not including vehicles stopped at traffic signals or stop signs on the public roadway.
Commercial Vehicles & Bus Drivers
Operators of commercial vehicles or buses will be subject to the following restrictions:
- Commercial Motor Vehicle operators are only allowed to use one button to begin or end a phone call.
- Commercial Motor Vehicle operators cannot reach for wireless telecommunications devices, or stand-alone electronic devices, if doing so requires the driver to leave a seated position or properly restraint by a safety belt.
- Drivers of a school bus cannot use wireless telecommunication devices or two-way radios while loading or unloading passengers.
- Drivers may only use wireless telecommunication devices while the bus is in motion if it is being used as a two-way radio for live communications between the driver and school and public safety officials.
Enforcement Of Hands-Free Law
There is no “grace period” for the law. Citations can be issued beginning July 1 for any violation of the Hands-Free Law, including those where the violation involves a traffic crash. Georgia Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement will have the option to issue warnings for violations as part of the effort to educate and to help motorists adapt to the new law. Penalties are structured as follows: First conviction: $50 and one point on a license, Second conviction: $100 and two points on a license, Third and subsequent convictions: $150 and three points on a license.
Complete details of Georgia’s new Hands-Free Law can be found on the Office of Highway Safety’s website.