Effective July 1, 2018, Georgia drivers will have to be “hands free” when behind the wheel, with limited exceptions for law enforcement and other first responder or emergency personnel.
Most sane people already know that sending text messages or emails is prohibited (and dangerous), but what else can or can’t you do now that the new law has taken effect?
What is Prohibited?
- Holding a cell phone or other wireless communications device, or a stand-alone electronic device such as an iPod, while you are not legally parked. Restrictions include holding a prohibited device with your hands, crook of your neck, lap or any other part of your body.
- Sending, reading or writing text-based communications including text messages, e-mails, instant messages or other forms of internet data while holding your device.
- Remember “holding” includes having the device in your lap or supported by another part of your body in any manner while not legally parked.
- Recording video and/or watching videos or movies.
- Don’t worry the kids in the back seat can still watch movies, play with the iPads, etc.
- Using more than a “single touch or swipe of a finger” on a wireless device to initiate or terminate wireless communication. This means you should not use your cell phone keypad to dial a phone number while driving.
- Reaching for a wireless telecommunications device in such a manner that requires the driver to maneuver in such a way that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position properly restrained by a safety belt. This could pose a problem for those of us with butter fingers.
What is Allowed?
- Using hands free technology to make phone calls, speak or text.
- Thankfully, most new cars have Bluetooth technology that incorporates (with varying degrees of success) this functionality.
- Wearing or using a smart watch while driving.
- Wearing or using a prescribed medical device while driving.
- Using an earpiece to talk on your phone while driving.
- Looking at and using a GPS or other mapping system, but again you are not allowed to “hold” the device.
What are the Exceptions?
- You are allowed to hold your cell phone or other wireless communication device to report a traffic accident or address a medical emergency. You are also allowed to report a hazardous road condition, fire, crime or other delinquent act.
- Finally, drivers are allowed to use their hands to hold and use otherwise prohibited devices when they are lawfully parked.
- Note: “lawfully parked” does not mean a you are at a stoplight or stop sign. It means you are pulled off or beside a road in an area that can and should be used for parking.
Failure to follow the new law will result in monetary fines, points on your license and potentially having to attend (and pay for) a defensive driver’s course. It’s a good bet you’re your insurance rates could go up as well. Repeat offenders will face increased monetary fines and perhaps license suspension upon the accumulation of enough points.
Simply put, you should no longer hold a cell phone or other type of prohibited device while you drive. Many drivers will find this frustrating as old habits can be hard to break and Bluetooth technology doesn’t always work as intended. Nonetheless, the law will save lives and we should all get used to it. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of vehicular death in Georgia, and it is time we all do our part to save lives and make the roads safer for everyone.