According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,166 lives in 2017 alone. As a result, the State of Georgia decided to take action, with the hope of curbing distracted driving in our state.
House Bill 673 was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal became effective on July 1, 2018. The hands-free law effectively prohibits drivers from reading, writing, and/or sending text messages or other forms of written communication. It is illegal for drivers to hold a cell phone or have the phone touch any part of their body while they are operating their vehicle; however, drivers are able to talk on cell phones if the phones are in a hands-free cradle, on the console or in the passenger seat andthey must use a speakerphone, an earbud or a wireless headphone in one ear only. There are a few exemptions from this law, i.e., reporting an emergency situation such as traffic collision, hazardous road condition, fire, theft, criminal activity, or first responders, emergency personnel, and/or utility company personnel responding to an emergency situation.
The Hands-Free law is an expansion of an existing law that makes it illegal to engage in any activity that distracts a driver from the safe operation of a vehicle, for example, reading text messages, books or other written material, writing or responding to text message or e-mail received on a cell phone, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and many other activities that would divert a driver’s attention from the road. While the DUI statute makes it illegal to operate a “moving” vehicle, the hands-free statute does not specifically define “driving” or “operation” of a vehicle. This raises the question of whether this law applies to a non-moving vehicle while stopped in heavy traffic or for a red light, or whether the law strictly prohibits texting under any circumstance while a driver.
Violation of the hands-free law carries strict penalties. The first conviction is a $50 fine and one point on the driver’s license; second conviction is a $100 fine and two points on the license, and the third and subsequent convictions carry a $150 fine and three points on the license. Charges against first offenders can be dropped if the court is given proof that they have obtained a device that allows them to use the phone with hands-free technology or device.
Distracted driving can have serious consequences. If you or someone you know has had the misfortune of being in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact The Rhine Law Firm for a free review of your case today.