The much anticipated Hands-Free Georgia Act goes into effect on July 1st. Here’s what you need to know to comply. Under the new law, you cannot:
- Hold or cradle a phone or electronic device
- Use more than one button to answer or use a mobile device
- Reach for a mobile device if standing up or unbuckling is required
A mobile device may be a cellphone, a tablet, a portable music device, or anything else that requires manual manipulation to control. Penalties for a first-time violation include one point from your license and a $50 fine. A second infraction will take two points and cost you $100. A third is three points and $150.
Included in this new act are those things that have already been made illegal under Georgia law. These include:
- Watching videos while driving
- Texting or typing while driving
- Using your device to browse the internet
All of these things are okay if you are “legally parked,” though there are qualifications there as well. Legally parked means in a designated parking space with the vehicle turned off. Traffic lights, signs, and signals do not qualify. Nor does being stopped in heavy traffic.
What Does the Law Allow?
GPS and voice-to-text are still legal while operating a vehicle in Georgia. However, do not allow this to lull you into a false sense of security. AAA has demonstrated that on-board electronics are not safer than handheld alternatives. In fact, they may be even more distracting. To be safe and to help avoid causing or being involved in an accident, it is best to pre-program GPS and to live with the music or radio choices you made before starting to drive. It is also best to keep your cellphone out of hand’s reach and turned off or set to silent while driving.
There is no safe level of distracted driving. While this new act strengthens Caleb’s Law and makes strides in the right direction, until all drivers agree to behave responsibly, everyone on the road is at risk.
More Than Car Wrecks
Distracted driving has been identified as a leading cause of car accidents. This modern problem is also leading cause of fatal pedestrian accidents - which have increased an alarming 16% in Georgia over the past year.
There were 260 pedestrians killed in Georgia in 2017, double the number killed in 2011 when electronic distraction was less of an issue. So far this year, 111 pedestrians have been killed in car accidents, a full 16% higher than this same time last year. Sources cited in an article published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggest distracted driving plays a large role in this increase.
Driving while distracted is selfish and inexcusable. Use of an electronic device while driving places pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers of all ages at great risk for serious or fatal injury and those responsible for these accidents must be held accountable for the damages they cause. If you or someone you love has been injured by a distracted driver, Watkins, Lourie, Roll & Chance can help. Give us a call at 404-948-4893 to learn how.
Located in Atlanta, Watkins, Lourie, Roll & Chance serves all of Georgia, fighting for the rights of men, women, and children injured by irresponsible and thoughtless drivers.