What Is the Hands Free Law in Georgia?

Ninety-seven percent of Americans own cell phones and don’t leave home without them. Unfortunately, cell phones provide many tempting distractions for drivers, the most brief of which can be disastrous. Accordingly, most states, including Georgia, have laws restricting electronic device use while driving.

If a driver violating the Hands-Free Law in Georgia causes an accident that injures you, our experienced Loganville car accident attorneys at Larrison Law Firm can help you seek compensation.

What Is the Hands-Free Law in Georgia?

The Hands-Free Georgia Act, which went into effect in July 2018, specifies multiple restrictions on using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. It clearly defines what drivers can and cannot do and which devices the restrictions apply to. This Act outlines a number limitations including the following:

  • No part of a driver’s body can touch a cell phone while driving.
  • Drivers cannot interact with the Internet or any data or written communications, such as reading or sending texts or emails or accessing social media, unless they use voice-to-text applications connected to their vehicles via Bluetooth.
  • Earbuds and headsets can only enable communications; drivers should not use them for entertainment purposes, including listening to music.
  • If drivers want to use their phones to stream music, they must initiate the streaming while parked.
  • Recording or watching videos is prohibited in most instances. Using dash cams and navigational aids is acceptable.

Georgia’s hands-free laws apply to cell phones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, and similar devices. Two-way radios for commercial or emergency uses, navigation devices, vehicle radios, remote diagnostic systems, and prescribed medical devices are among the few types of equipment you can legally use while driving.

Are There Exceptions to the Hands-Free Law?

Though strict, the Hands-Free Georgia Act has exceptions that allow drivers to use their phones in certain situations:

  • Any driver can use their phone to report an emergency to appropriate law enforcement agencies while driving.
  • First responders, including firefighters, police officers, EMS, and ambulance personnel, can use their phones while performing their official duties.
  • Utility service providers can use their phones for work-related purposes when responding to utility emergencies.
  • School bus drivers can use their phones as two-way radios to communicate with school public safety personnel while driving but not when students enter or exit the bus.
  • Commercial drivers can use one button to initiate or end work-related calls as long as the device is within reach.

The hands-free law in Georgia still applies when stopped at red lights. You cannot use your phone unless you are lawfully parked, which does not apply to stopping in traffic.

What Are the Penalties for Violating the Hands-Free Georgia Act?

Drivers who violate the Georgia hands-free law can face fines and points against their driver’s licenses. These violations are misdemeanors, and each instance constitutes a separate offense.

  • First offense: not more than a $50 fine and one DL point
  • Second offense within 24 months of the first: not more than a $100 fine and one point
  • Third offense within two years: not more than a $150 fine and one point

Three or more convictions within 12 months can lead to $300 fines and a possible driver’s license suspension.

Newer vehicles have Bluetooth technologies built in that allow drivers to communicate through audio systems.

However, older cars still on the road don’t have this capability. Depending on the nature of the offense, drivers of vehicles without Bluetooth may avoid penalties by proving to the court that they purchased a hands-free enabling device after the citation.

Why Was the Georgia Hands-Free Law Enacted?

Before enacting the Hands-Free Georgia Act, the state saw an increasing number of injury-producing and fatal car accidents. Drivers between 15 and 25 accounted for many of these crashes, leading law enforcement officials to determine that driver inattention in this age group was a significant problem.

These drivers frequently caused rear-end collisions or single-vehicle crashes, a further indication of distracted driving. Georgia enacted this law to reduce the number of accidents directly related to cell phone use.

Although the number of drivers using cell phones while driving may have decreased, many drivers still use their phones in unacceptable ways. This dangerous form of distraction causes many accidents that are otherwise avoidable.

What Are Driving Distractions?

A driving distraction is anything that takes a driver’s eyes from the road, hands from the steering wheel, or attention from the act of driving. Alone, all of these are dangerous, but hands-on use of cell phones encompasses all three kinds of distractions. In addition to phone use, other common distractions include:

  • Eating, drinking, or smoking
  • Fixing hair or applying makeup
  • Interacting with passengers
  • Searching or reaching for loose objects in the vehicle
  • Daydreaming, focusing on scenery, or rubbernecking

These and other distractions are dangerous because they may leave drivers unaware of emerging safety hazards until it’s too late to avoid a collision.

There are a few signs that a driver might be distracted. These include sudden swerving or lane changes, erratic speeds, abrupt braking, and drifting between lanes or onto the shoulder. If you see these or other alarming behaviors, try to maintain space between your vehicle and theirs. However, traffic conditions may not allow evasive actions.

Why Is Hands-On Cell Phone Usage So Dangerous?

At 55 mph, a car can travel 403 feet in five seconds. The distance increases at highway speeds. Sending or reading a text while behind the wheel can be equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

However, most people who wouldn’t dream of doing that continue to use their phones while driving on a regular basis.

The hands-free law in Georgia attempts to make drivers aware of how dangerous this behavior is. A lot can happen during that short time of distraction. Cars ahead can slow down or stop, animals can dart onto roadways, and vehicles can merge into traffic lanes. Any of these situations may require a driver to react in a split second to avoid accidents.

Hands-on cell phone use and other distractions delay driver reaction times, which refers to the time it takes to notice a hazard, process it, decide on a course of action, and initiate the action. Because vehicles don’t complete desired actions instantly, vehicle response time adds to the delay.

Although the reaction process may take only a few seconds, distractions can shorten the necessary time and distance, making accidents unavoidable. The collisions that result can cause serious injuries or fatalities.

What Common Injuries Do Distracted Drivers Cause?

Many accidents caused by distracted drivers are rear-end collisions, which often produce whiplash and other neck injuries, broken bones, and facial injuries. Other common injuries include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, burns, airbag-deployment injuries, and internal organ damage.

If you sustain injuries in a distracted driving accident, you can usually seek compensation from the at-fault driver.

You might receive economic damages for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage and replacement services.

Non-economic damages may compensate you for pain and suffering, losing your ability to enjoy life, and other negative impacts on your quality of life.

What If You Are Partially Responsible?

Georgia uses modified comparative negligence laws when multiple parties share fault for causing an accident. You usually cannot obtain compensation if you are at least 51% responsible.

Your assigned percentage of fault also directly impacts the amount of any payout. For instance, if you are 20% at fault, expect only 80% of your total damages in compensation. An experienced attorney can ensure that your portion of the fault is accurate.

Get Legal Help from Our Loganville Car Accident Attorneys at Larrison Law Firm Today

Violating the hands-free law in Georgia is a serious offense that can cause injury or fatal accidents, and you need to hold these drivers accountable. The Larrison Law Firm has a proven track record of helping those injured in distracted driving accidents and other personal injury matters recover compensation. Contact us today to request your free case evaluation and learn how we can help with your claim.

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