Georgia’s New Hands-Free Law

Most all of us have done it at one time or another—used our cell phone while driving. While knowing full well how dangerous the habit is, most drivers believe they can use a cell phone safely while driving. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, despite the fact that cell phone use may be the number one distraction for drivers, while sixty-seven percent of those surveyed felt they were at risk from other drivers distracted by technology, only 25 percent said their own cell phone use put others at risk.

This “not me” attitude stems from the fact that most adults believe they are safer, better drivers than those around them. Some even liken this most common distraction to “driving under the influence of a smartphone.” In other words, cell phone accidents are reaching the same level of epic numbers as driving under the influence accidents. Our instant gratification society dictates that we immediately respond to message, telephone calls, even social media posts, leaving the job of stopping us from endangering our own lives and the lives of others up to lawmakers.

Georgia Expands Cell Phone Laws
The state of Georgia has recently expanded its cell phone laws with a law which prohibits drivers from streaming video on their phones, texting while driving, watching or recording a video or even holding a wireless device while driving. The law, which took effect July 1, 2018, has been in the works since a tragic accident in April 2015, near Savannah, Georgia killed five students and injured two more.

The students’ car was stopped for traffic when the driver of a tractor trailer (who was sending text messages at the time of the crash) slammed into the car on Interstate 16. State legislators found that despite Georgia’s no-texting law, which was passed in 2010, crashes and fatalities continued to rise due to distracted drivers.

What the New Georgia Law Prohibits
The new Georgia hands-free law prohibits drivers from any of the following:

• Holding or supporting a wireless device with the body or the hands;
• Watching a video or a movie;
• Recording a video, and
• Holding a cell phone device while writing, reading or sending a text.

Drivers are allowed to:

• Use a GPS or mapping app;
• Use any in-vehicle system;
• Use a hands-free earpiece to talk on the phone;
• Wear and use a smart watch, and
• Speak or text with a hands-free device.

More specifically, drivers in Georgia may no longer hold a phone or other electronic wireless device while driving—unless making an emergency phone call and may not use more than one button to answer a cell phone. Further, if reaching for a cell phone while driving requires unsnapping your seat belt—you are not allowed to do so. Driver’s may make and receive hands-free phone calls using single-ear headphones and Bluetooth devices. You may still use your in-car navigation, communication and entertainment systems.

Getting Legal Help When You Need It
Because more people are out and about in their vehicles during the summer months, there are also potentially more people facing DUI charges and, now, charges for using a cell phone without benefit of a hands-free device as well. If you find yourself in one of these situations, it can be extremely beneficial to contact an experience Georgia criminal defense attorney sooner, rather than later. Melanie Ellwanger is a knowledgeable Georgia criminal defense lawyer who will work with you closely, exploring all possible options. Melanie will always fight hard for you—for your future and to ensure your rights are protected. Contact Melanie Ellwanger at (404) 803-3105 or at melanie@hiremelaw.com.