The Georgia Hands-Free Law is designed to reduce distracted driving, a nationwide problem that leads to more than 3,000 deaths and over 400,000 injuries annually. This law outlines expectations for what drivers can and can’t do behind the wheel concerning smartphones or other electronic devices. Here are some highlights of the law:
Hands-Free Means Hands-Free
Drivers are not allowed to hold or touch their phones while driving. You can use a hands-free device like a Bluetooth headset or a system integrated into your car’s sound system to talk on the phone. But because you can’t touch your phone while driving, you’ll have to either dial before you leave or instruct an AI assistant to place the call for you.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Reading or writing emails, messages, social media posts, or other communications while driving is prohibited. The law does make an exception for dictating messages through a text-to-speech program, so you can verbally compose a text letting your boss know you’ll be late, etc.
There is another exception for using a device to get directions or navigational help. While it isn’t illegal to glance at the screen for navigational purposes, it’s still safest to avoid taking your eyes off the road. Try to make do with spoken directions, and find a safe place to pull over if you need to look closely at a map.
It’s also illegal to watch or record videos while driving outside of GPS or navigational uses. However, you can have a continuously recording dashcam if you want to document what happens while traveling. Listening to streaming music or podcasts is allowed as long as it doesn’t require touching your phone while driving. You’ll need to set up the streaming app before you put your car in gear or use voice controls through the car’s stereo system.
The Consequences of Breaking Distracted Driving Laws in Georgia
Under the Georgia Hands-Free Law, people convicted of violating these rules will be guilty of a misdemeanor. The punishments are as follows:
The first conviction is punished with a fine of $50 and one point against the driver’s license.
The second conviction is punished with a fine of $100 and two points against the driver’s license.
The third conviction is punished with a $150 fine and three points against the driver’s license.
Second and third convictions are only counted if they happen within 24 months of the first conviction. If it’s been more than 24 months, a subsequent conviction will be treated as a first conviction.
If it’s your first offense, you may be able to avoid a conviction and have the charges dropped by presenting proof that you purchased a hands-free device to use in the future.
It’s helpful to remember that these are only consequences of using a device outside the bounds of the distracted driving law. If your distracted driving leads to an accident, you could face other fines for infractions like running a red light or reckless driving.
Does the Georgia Hands-Free Law Address All Forms of Distracted Driving?
No, at least not specifically. The Georgia Hands-Free Law deals with problems arising from an increase in drivers using phones or other devices while operating a motor vehicle. Frequently, this is what people think of when they hear the words “distracted driving.” However, there are many other possible distractions for drivers.
Although the law only gives specific instructions for smartphone usage, a 2010 Georgia code says, “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 means that you can be cited for anything that distracts you from driving safely. In fact, one driver made the news in 2015 after he was cited for eating a cheeseburger while driving in Marietta. (His attorney noted that it’s unusual to be cited for eating and driving outside of cases where an accident occurs.) However, if you become distracted to the point of breaking other traffic laws, such as running a stop sign, you can also be cited for those infractions.
Adjusting the radio, temperature, or other controls. While it’s not illegal to do these things while driving, you should use care and avoid taking your eyes off the road. Setting up pre-set buttons when you’re parked can prevent situations where you have to look at the console while driving.
Eating and drinking. Although you probably won’t get ticketed for eating a cheeseburger at the wheel, it’s safer to wait until you reach your destination. Many accidents have happened because drivers got distracted digging in a fast food bag or trying to insert a straw into a to-go drink. Eating and drinking can also be messy, and some people become preoccupied with cleaning a spill instead of watching their driving.
Hair styling or grooming. It’s easy to get distracted by checking your hair or makeup in the mirror. Some people even apply cosmetics, brush or comb their hair, spray cologne, or do other grooming activities while behind the wheel, but these efforts can take your eyes and concentration away from the road at critical times. Instead, fix your hair at home or finish your routine once you’ve safely arrived at your destination and parked your car.
Talking to passengers. A casual conversation is all right if you keep your eyes on the road, but more in-depth talks can prove a distraction, so waiting until you’re parked is better.
Roadside distractions. You should keep an eye out for people, animals, or anything else that might unexpectedly enter the roadway, but not to the point of distraction. If you see an accident, slow down and drive carefully around it. Unfortunately, sometimes motorists get distracted staring at a wreck or other roadside event, and that can lead to another accident. Instead of staring at the event, slow down, watch the street in front of you, and scan for movement along the side of the road.
Can the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm Help If I Was Hit by a Distracted Driver?
Yes, our experienced distracted driving accident lawyers will be happy to review your case in a free consultation. Depending on the circumstance, you may have several options for seeking compensation, including the distracted driver’s car insurance, your car insurance, suing the distracted driver, or suing a third party. In most cases, we will start with making a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. The insurance adjuster is likely to underestimate the value of your claim, so we strongly recommend consulting an attorney before you accept an offer from the insurance company.
Attorney Ali Awad founded the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm only a few years ago and quickly expanded it into the fastest-growing law firm in the country. Our friendly staff is always available to answer questions or set up a free consultation about your case, so please contact us today to learn your options for pursuing compensation. Possible damages include medical bills, lost income or earning potential, property damage such as car repairs, pain and suffering, loss of consortium or companionship, and more.
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