One of the most common causes of car accidents is texting, or otherwise using a cell phone, while driving. Still, some reports estimate that as much as 7 percent of drivers are using cell phones at any given time. More, 14 percent of fatal crashes in 2018 involved cell phones accounting for 4,637 deaths nationwide. Georgia’s Hands-Free law, or the law cracking down on the use of cell phones while driving, took effect on July 1, 2018 and is designed to prevent those injuries and death.
Most Georgia drivers know that the law generally prohibits cell phone use while driving. However, the law is specific about what type of use is permitted and what is not. Here is a list of what Georgia’s Hands-Free Law prohibits:
- Drivers may not hold their phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone.
- Drivers may not write, send, or read text messages, e-mails, social media, or internet data content.
- Drivers may not watch videos while on the road unless for navigation or as part of a continuously running dash cam.
- Headsets and earpieces may not be worn for any other reason than communication.
Georgia’s cell phone law has several exceptions that allow for safer use of handheld devices:
- Drivers can use their phone to make or receive calls with a speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, or Bluetooth connection.
- Drivers can hold their phone to make calls reporting an accident, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity, or hazardous road conditions.
- Music streaming apps can be used so long as they are activated and/or programed when parked. Drivers cannot touch their phones to do anything (including music streaming apps) while on the road.
- The hands-free law does not apply to electronic communication devices such as CB radios, in-vehicle security, or subscription-based emergency communication devices.
- Drivers can use their phones when lawfully parked—this DOES NOT include drivers stopped at traffic signals or stop signs on public roadways.
Since the law was passed, convictions for distracted driving have increased dramatically. Even though the law was not in effect for the first half of 2018, Gwinnett County reported over 2,000 more traffic citations in 2018 than 2017 Yet, a recent survey conducted by AAA showed that while the law has been in place for almost a year, Georgians are still texting and driving—77 percent of Georgians are aware that Georgia law prohibits drivers from using their cellphones, but 60 percent of those surveyed said they still see drivers texting or e-mailing anyway. In another survey conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 40 percent of respondents admitted they only obey the law some of the time.
It is important that drivers understand the hands-free law because there are significant consequences for violating it. First, violations of the law will result in traffic citations and financial penalties. The first conviction is $50 and one point towards a suspended license, the second is $100 and two points, and subsequent convictions are $150 each resulting in three points. More importantly though, distracted driving like texting and driving can cause serious injury to the drivers using the phone and the drivers around them.
The good news is, the law is working. Traffic fatalities in Georgia fell 3.4 percent from 2017 to 2018. In addition, collision insurance claims have declined dramatically ever since the law took place. While the progress is encouraging, there were still 1,497 highway fatalities in Georgia last year.
If you or someone you know was injured in a car crash with another driver who was using his or her cell phone illegally, you need a lawyer who specializes in texting while driving accidents. At Rafi Law Firm, we know how use the law to your advantage and get the other driver’s cell phone records to prove you were not responsible for the accident or your injuries. This fact can be essential to winning your case and getting the money you deserve. Contact us by clicking here or calling 404-800-9933.