Stephen Hasner | Car Accidents | September 7, 2018
Hands-free cell phone laws are sweeping the nation, with 16 states now restricting drivers from using handheld phones, an attempt to decrease the number of accidents that result from distracted driving. Although restrictions on texting while driving are more widespread, these new hands-free laws prohibit drivers from talking on cell phones without the aid of Bluetooth or a similar technology. Georgia recently passed its first hands-free law, making it illegal throughout the state to talk on the phone in the driver’s seat without a hands-free device. The new law, House Bill 673, went into effect on July 1, 2018. Georgia is the first southern state to pass a hands-free law, and it will likely take some time for law enforcement and the public to adjust.
Behind the Law
Georgia lawmakers passed House Bill 673 in response to increases in the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving. Though not all accidents in Georgia involve a mobile phone, many have been single car crashes involving young adults, indicating that distracted driving likely played a role, and that a hands-free law might have made a difference. Despite the growing popularity of these laws, most studies show inconclusive results as to whether hands-free laws actually reduce the number of accidents in jurisdictions that adopt them. However, some states have reported a reduction in roadway fatalities after enacting a hands-free law.
What Georgia Drivers Need to Know
House Bill 673 restricts the use of cell phones in nearly every way. Georgia drivers may only make telephone calls if their phone is connected to their vehicle, or if the conversation can otherwise be conducted completely hands-free. Thankfully, newer cars are often equipped with technology, like Bluetooth, that make it simpler to engage in phone calls while driving. Drivers of older market vehicles may use speakerphone or headsets for a phone call but may not use earpieces to listen to music. Sending text messages while driving is still completely prohibited, as is watching or recording any type of video, including video chatting.
Georgia drivers should understand that police officers have the authority to cite drivers for having their hands on a cell phone while driving for any reason, even if for navigational purposes. The new hands-free law also prohibits propping up the cell phone with any body part, so talking with both hands on the wheel and the phone cradled between your head and shoulder is not considered hands-free. Furthermore, stopping at a red light or stop sign does not give drivers freedom to use their cell phones; the law remains in effect until the vehicle is lawfully parked and no longer on the road. The only exception that the law provides is if the driver is making a call to report an accident, medical emergency, fire, or something similar.
What are the consequences of getting pulled over for illegally using your cell phone while driving? Because the law is new, law enforcement officers have been giving warnings instead of tickets; however, House Bill 673 does not provide any official grace period. The fines established by the new law are as follows:
- First conviction: $50 and one point on license.
- Second conviction: $100 and two points on license.
- Third conviction and beyond: $150 and three points on license.
Victims of Distracted Driving
Despite the state’s new hands-free law, drivers will continue to drive distractedly, especially during periods of heavy traffic. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a distracted driver, don’t wait to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Having an attorney on your side can help ensure you receive adequate compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
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