Nationwide statistics reveal a very scary fact – at any given moment, about 800,000 motorists are using their cell phones while operating their vehicles. If you’ve ever witnessed someone using their phone while driving, then you already know first-hand how distracting the technology can be. Not only is the driver taking their eyes off the road and endangering themselves, but they’re also potentially putting everyone else around them in harm’s way, too.
Since this behavior is a public safety issue, a hands free GA law was signed into law on May 2, 2018.
This crucial law helps discourage risky driving behaviors, and it also helps support individuals who wind up injured after getting into distracted driving car accidents. Learn more about the hands free GA law and how it could impact your car accident claim below.
What is the Hands-Free Georgia Act?
In Georgia, every person who gets behind the wheel of a car automatically assumes a legal duty to provide for the safety and care of everyone else on the road. In other words, it’s everyone’s responsibility to drive as safely as they can.
Over the years, certain technologies like smartphones and GPS systems have started to cause problems on the road. When drivers get distracted by this type of technology, they lose focus on the road and can cause serious accidents.
As a result of this concern, Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 673 into law in May of 2018. This Hands-Free law makes it a traffic offense for drivers to have a phone in their hand or to be touching a phone while they’re driving. Drivers are prohibited from attempting to text, send e-mails, browse social media, play videos, or use any type of internet data on the road.
Exceptions to the Hands Free GA Law
While keeping drivers off their cellphones is important, there are exceptions to the general hands free GA law. For one, it is considered legally acceptable to use your cellphone and hands while driving if you’re using a navigational or GPS system. It’s also considered acceptable for drivers to listen to or stream music on their devices, but the music cannot have a video on the screen. The operator is also prohibited from touching their phones while their music is streaming. That means the program must be activated prior to starting to drive, and the driver can’t reach over to change songs or control the app. It’s acceptable to control the app, though, if the app is able to be controlled through the vehicle’s radio system. It’s also acceptable to use an earpiece, headphone, or smartwatch. Voice-based commands that are translated to written text via the smart device are also permitted.
Another important exception to the rule is when there is an emergency situation that requires you to be on the phone while driving. If you’re reporting a traffic accident, for instance, then you won’t be considered in violation of the law. You can also use your device when lawfully parked.
Impacts of the Hands Free GA Law on Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators
The typical driver can ensure that they abide by these new laws by simply keeping their hands off of any type of smart technology while they’re driving. For other types of drivers, like commercial truckers or school bus drivers, the law is not as clear cut. Learn more about how this law will impact commercial motor vehicle operators below.
School Bus Drivers
School bus drivers face a unique situation since they may need to communicate with public safety officials, parents of young children, or even school officials while on the job. The hands free law does specifically address school bus operators, and the law specifically states that school bus drivers should not be using any two-way radio or wireless telecommunications device while loading or unloading passengers. They also can’t use these devices while the bus is in motion unless it’s used in a manner similar to a two-way radio.
Commercial Truck Drivers
Commercial truck drivers also face a unique situation since they also communicate with other truckers as a part of their job. Due to this, the law specifically addresses commercial truck drivers. Under the law, these truckers can utilize voice conversations, but the device they use must be able to be turned on or off with a single button. Truckers are not permitted to drive while reaching for a wireless telecommunication device in such a way that they’ll have to get out of the seated position or they’ll have to readjust their seatbelt in a way where they’re not properly restrained.
How Will the Hands Free Law Get Enforced?
In general, this type of law will be enforced by police officers on traffic duty. A driver might get accused of violating this law if officers witness a driver using a phone, a driver gets into an accident while on the phone, or police officers otherwise suspect the driver was using a device while driving.
What are the Penalties for Violating the Hands-Free Georgia Act?
If a driver violates the hands-free act in Georgia, then they’ll likely receive a ticket. If it’s the first time you’ve been accused of this type of traffic offense, then you need to know that you have the right to contest the accusations against you by showing up to traffic court. If you get found guilty of a first-time offense, then you’ll likely receive one point on your license. You’ll also be expected to pay a fine of $50.00.
A second offense comes with a penalty of two points against your license and a fine of up to $100.00. A third offense causes 3 points against your license and a fine of up to $150.00.
These increased fines for the 2nd or 3rd offenses will only apply if the conviction date is within 24 months of the original conviction date.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that first-time offenders can potentially get their traffic offense dropped if they show up to court and prove that they’ve now obtained an approved hands-free device.
Georgia Hands Free Laws: FAQs
If you regularly traverse through Georgia, then you’ll need to abide by this new hands free law. If you break this law and cause an accident, then you could face consequences. Not only could you get points on your license and face fines, but you might be held financially liable for any injuries or damages, too. Get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the new law below.
Why is the Hands-Free Law Needed in Georgia?
The main reason the hands free law was passed in Georgia is because distracted driving is a leading cause of traffic accidents and fatalities. In fact, despite passing the law, distracted driving is still causing a rise in deadly car crashes as of 2023.
Can I Still Talk on my Phone While Driving in GA?
It depends. If you have a hands free device and connect to the call before you start driving, then you might be able to talk on the phone. If you don’t have this technology, then it’s better to simply wait until you’re at your destination to make any calls.
What Would the Fines and Penalties be for Breaking Hands Free GA Laws?
The fines and penalties for breaking the law are as follows:
- First offense: $50 and 1 point against your license
- Second Offense: $100 and 2 points against your license
- Third Offense: $150 and 3 points against your license
Can I Listen to Online Radio Apps While Driving?
Yes, as long as the app doesn’t contain a video and can be streamed without needing to touch your phone.
Can I Talk on the Phone With Hands-Free Apps in GA?
Yes, you can talk with an earpiece, headphone, or other voice-to-text chat that doesn’t require holding or touching your phone.
What if I Get into an Accident With a Person Who Broke the Law?
If you experience a car accident in Atlanta and you suspect the other driver was breaking the hands free law, then you might have the basis to seek out a claim against that driver. A claim can help you obtain the financial compensation you need to cover any losses you experience as a result of the accident.
What to Do After a Car Accident
If you recently experienced a car accident that led to injuries and you suspect the other driver was breaking the hands free GA law, then it’s in your best interests to talk to a car accident lawyer about your legal options.
If you can prove that the other party was violating the law, then you’ll be showing to the courtroom that the other driver was negligent. In general, the negligent driver is the party who will be held legally responsible for the financial losses that arise as a result of the crash.
In other words, you might be able to obtain compensation for your losses after the accident by seeking out a claim.
Every car accident situation is unique, though, so it’s best to learn more about your potential legal options by discussing your case with a lawyer. Schedule a consultation with us today if you’re interested in talking about your accident in more detail with an attorney.