On July 1, 2018, Georgia’s new hands-free driving law went into effect. For the text of the Act, as-passed, see here.
Georgia becomes the 16th state in the US to ban motorists from holding of using a phone — or other device — while driving. The law is intended to save lives and reduce the number of wrecks and collisions on Georgia roads. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, 1,549 people died in vehicle crashes in 2017. This new law will reduce that number, at least based on statistics from other states. According to news reports, the states that have adopted a similar law have seen at least a 16 percent drop in traffic deaths.
Here is a quick overview of the new law.
Kennesaw Hands-Free Driving — Executive Summary
The new law is called the “Hands-Free Georgia Act.” As the name would imply, the intent is to prohibit using your hands while driving for any purpose other than driving. So, in brief summary, you cannot do the following:
- Hold your cellphone or other device while driving
- Manipulate, swipe, push buttons or otherwise handle a stand-alone device
- Handle, manipulate or use a music-playing device
There are two basic exceptions: (i) using the radio — off, on and changing stations — and (2) using a GPS device. Note that the new Act exempts using a GPS device from the specific acts prohibited in Sections 4(c) and (d), but reading and inputting information on the GPS device might still violate Section 4(b). Thus, the better practice is to input addresses before starting off on your journey, or pull safely to the side of the road if you need to focus on the GPS device.
The new law also prohibits other distracted-while-driving behavior such as:
- Watching a video or a movie while driving
- Making or broadcasting a video while driving
If you are in doubt, do not engage in the behavior. Distracted driving is dangerous and can lead to wrecks and collisions. You do not want to be killed or injured in such a wreck/collision and you do not want to be the cause of such a wreck/collision.
In general, the new law does not apply to an emergency situation.
Kennesaw Hands-Free Driving — Details With Respect To The Hands-Free Georgia Act
The new law replaces Georgia Code § 40-6-241 with a new provision and repeals entirely former Code §§ 40-6-241.1 and -241.2. Those code sections were the old law that prohibited texting while driving. The new law establishes new definitions and new prohibitions.
Section 4, subsection (b) of the new law maintains the following duty of care:
“A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.”
This language carries over from the old version of § 40-6-241 with the previous exceptions removed. This duty of care was first enacted in 2010 and, with the new law, remains the law in Georgia. This is a stand-alone duty of care that generally prohibits distracted driving of any sort. Georgia courts may eventually link the duty owed under subsection (b) to the specific prohibitions in subsections (c) and (d), but the statutory language does not link the sections. In our view, courts should NOT limit the duty owed under subsection (b) to what is prohibited under subsections (c) and (d). It is reasonable to have a generalized duty to not drive while distracted.
Note that the duty of care in subsection (b) applies to all drivers. There are no exceptions for law enforcement or utility workers responding to an emergency. And, as mentioned above, there are no exceptions under Section 4(b) for using a GPS device.
Section 4(c) and (d) of the Hands-Free Georgia Act prohibits certain specific behaviors. Subsection (c) is for ALL drivers while subsection (d) applies to drivers of commercial vehicles. Subsections (e) and (f) state the penalties (see below) and subsection (g) provides that subsections (c) and (d) do not apply to certain emergency situations — such as reporting a wreck/collision — or to certain emergency responders like firefighters and police.
Section 4(c) prohibits ALL drivers “while operating a motor vehicle” from
- Physically holding or supporting, with any part of his or her body, a wireless telecommunication device — except for “the use of an earpiece, headphone device or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication or a stand-alone electronic device”
- Writing, sending or reading any test based communication on ANY type of device — except for voice-based communication which is auto-converted to text
- Watching a video or movie on any device — except for watching/reading data for navigation purposes
- Recording or broadcasting a video on any type of device — except “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 noted, Section 4(d) of the new Act applies to commercial drivers. This would include truck drivers, taxis, limo drivers and, presumably, Uber/Lyft drivers. Section 4(d) prohibits drivers from doing the following “while operating a commercial vehicle”:
- Using more than a single button on a wireless telecommunication device to initiate or terminate a voice communication
- Reaching for a wireless or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be seated or to no longer be “restrained by a safety belt”
For all section of the Act, a “wireless telecommunication device” includes cellular phones, texting devices, GPS devices and computers, but does NOT include:
- Citizens band radios or ham radio devices
- Commercial two-way radios
- Subscription-based emergency communication devices
- Prescribed medical devices
- In-vehicle security, navigation or remote diagnostics systems
Kennesaw Hands-Free Driving — Penalties and One Free Strike
These are the penalties for violating the new law:
- 1st offense — $50 fine and one point on their driver’s license
- 2nd offense — $100 and two points
- 3rd offense — $150 and three points
However, the Act also provides one “free strike.” Section 4(g)(C)(2) provides that, for a first offense, the charges/penalties will be dismissed if the accused appears before the court with either (i) an actual “hands-free” device or (ii) proof of purchase of a device that is “hands-free.” The Act’s specific language is this:
“Any person appearing before a court for a first charge of violating paragraph (1) of subsection (3) of this Code who produces in court a device or proof of purchase of such device that would allow such person to comply with such paragraph in the future shall not be guilty of such offense.”
Kennesaw Auto Accidents Lawyers: Contact the Roger Ghai Law Offices
For more information, contact the Kennesaw accident and personal injury attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices We provide legal services for the residents of Cobb County including the communities of Kennesaw, Acworth, Marietta and the surrounding areas. Click here to schedule your consultation.