Have you Been Charged with Distracted Driving or Texting while Driving in Georgia?
One of the most significant traffic changes in 2018 was the distracted driving law. Effective July 1, 2018, Georgia introduced the Hands-Free Act. The law requires drivers to use hands-free technology when using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. However, there are some nuances to the law that are important to know. Hands-free is not as clear-cut as it sounds. Our Georgia Distracted Driving Attorneys have taken the time to study exactly what is allowed and prohibited under the new law. Contact us anytime, day or night, for any questions you may have.
What is Prohibited Under the Distracted Driving Law in Georgia?
While operating a motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:
(1) Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body a:
(A) Wireless telecommunications device, provided that such exclusion shall not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication; or
(B) Stand-alone electronic device;
(2) Write, send, or read any text-based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided, however, that such prohibition shall not apply to:
(A) A voice-based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form; or
(B) The use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes;
(3) Watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle; or
(4) Record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided that such prohibition shall not apply to electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle.
As evidenced by the statute, it is not as clear cut as you may think. Even though the law is called the “hands-free” law, it is still a violation if you use another part of your body to physically hold or support the device. Therefore, using your shoulder to support talking on your phone would violate this statute. Furthermore, it is illegal to not just talk on the phone but to text, watch a movie, record or broadcast anything on your device.
What Actions are Allowed in Georgia?
There are many things that you are allowed to utilize under the law:
- Talking or texting while using hands-free technology
- Using GPS
- Wearing and using a smartwatch
- Using an earpiece to talk on the phone
In addition, some people are exempt from the hands-free requirements:
While reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, an actual or potential criminal or delinquent act, or road condition which causes an immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard;
(2) By an employee or contractor of a utility services provider acting within the scope of his or her employment while responding to a utility emergency;
(3) By a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties; or
(4) While in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked.
The Distracted Driving Law Applies to More than Just Phones
According to O.C.G.A. §40-6-241 (a)(3), “wireless telecommunications device” means a cellular telephone, a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver, or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data.
Many people use iPads, computers, or other devices while driving so the law includes these items.
It does not include radios, in-vehicle security, navigation, citizens band radio, or prescribed medical devices.
Distracted Driving for Commercial Drivers in Georgia
Drivers with a CDL are held to a higher standard than other drivers. In addition to the other requirements outlined by the statute, drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle are not allowed to:
(1) Use more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or
(2) Reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be:
(A) In a seated driving position; or
(B) Properly restrained by a safety belt.
The Penalty for Distracted Driving in Georgia
For a first conviction of distracted driving in Georgia, the penalty will be a fine of not more than $50.00 and 1 point on your license.
For a second conviction within 24 months, the penalty will be a fine of not more than $100.00 and 2 points on your license.
For a third or subsequent conviction within a 24 month period of time, the penalty will be a fine of not more than $150.00 and 3 points on your license.
How Do the Georgia Distracted Driving and Texting Laws Affect You?
Most importantly, texting while driving can be the reasonable suspension to pull over a driver and start an investigation. Many of our clients are pulled over for texting or some other very minor traffic violation. However, once pulled over, the officer can start a DUI or drug possession investigation. Then the reason you are pulled over becomes irrelevant as long as it was a legitimate reason. That is why we tell everyone we can to drive responsibly! Don't let a minor violation lead to a drug possession case or even a DUI against you. However, if you have been charged with distracted driving or another offense, contact us immediately. Our Georgia Traffic Ticket Lawyers are here to help when you need it most.
The best advice we can give you is not text and drive. However, we understand that people make mistakes. So if that happens, call our distracted driving attorneys in Georgia now. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to meet your needs! Call now.