Hands Free Laws in Georgia

Distracted driving is one of the most prominent causes of auto accidents. Unsurprisingly, smartphones create some of the biggest road distractions, with everything from voice calls, to texting, to the thousands of apps available. Because of the increasing number of accidents due to phones, lawmakers across the country have been stepping up to try and control this trend.

In 2010, Georgia passed a law to prohibit all texting while driving. While texting provides some of the highest level of hand, eye, and attention distraction, it is just one way phones sap the attention of drivers. In its next step to reduce distracted driving, Georgia has passed House Bill 673, the Hand-Free Georgia Act.

What the Hands-Free Georgia Act Does

The core of the law prohibits drivers from holding phones and other electronic devices while behind the wheel. As an act of preventing distracted driving, it’s a step in the right direction. Taking your hands off the wheel prevents proper reaction time to obstacles while driving, and looking at anything else but the road for more than a few seconds increases the chances of getting into an accident.

Other states have passed similar laws and have seen decreases in motor accident rates. But Georgia’s new bill has raised some questions over just what is and is not permissible.

Prohibited Acts

As the name implies, the Hands-Free Georgia Act prohibits drivers from holding a cell phone or other electronic device while driving. However, “holding” doesn’t just refer to the hands, but also to other areas of the body. Drivers cannot hold electronic devices in their laps, the crook of their necks, or any other position.

If you use a stand to support your phone, you also cannot reach for it if you’re no longer in a seated driving position. You also cannot reach for a device that has fallen over onto the floor since it will take your eyes off the road.

Other prohibited acts include anything that requires typing, such as texting and other messages, reading messages, watching videos or movies that aren’t related to GPS or navigation, and recording videos.

Allowed Acts

While the bill prohibits many acts, it does allows for others. Drivers may still use GPS systems and navigation apps, so long as they type in addresses before driving. Drivers may also speak or text using hands-free technology. The law also exempts smart watches from the holding provisions, though drivers still may not interact with messages while driving.

Exceptions do exist when you can handle an electronic device while driving, such as reporting:

  • Traffic accidents
  • Medical emergencies
  • Fires
  • Crimes
  • Hazardous road conditions

In addition to these emergency conditions, drivers may also handle electronic devices when they are legally parked. This only refers to when in an area open to parking or off the road – not when stopped at a stoplight.

Many other components of the law are ambiguous, such as whether you can type an address into a navigation app while driving. As time goes on, courts and further legislation will determine many of these unsure factors.

Penalties

Those who violate the Hands-Free Georgia Act are subject to fines. A first-time offense has a fine of $50, though a driver may get their fee waived if he or she shows a judge a receipt for hands-free technology. Any subsequent offenses have a fine of $150.

The Hands-Free Georgia Act is not the first law to hope to decrease distracted driving, and it leaves many other distracting activities – such as hands-free phone calls – as still legal. As laws are constantly evolving, it is likely this bill will go through the same processes and see necessary adjustments.

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