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Georgia Texting And Driving Laws

By Butler Prather LLP on January 11, 2021

Technology has completely changed the way that most of us live our lives. We all essentially have little computers in our pockets in the form of mobile devices, and this can become a distraction when we are driving. Most people know that texting and driving is dangerous, but that does not stop many drivers from sending and receiving text messages, reading their emails, or browsing the Internet for the latest news. Here, we will review what Georgia law says about texting and driving, the dangers of this type of behavior, and possible penalties.

texting and driving in GA

Distracted driving behavior is incredibly dangerous

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we can see that distracted driving occurs in various ways. This includes:

  • Visual distraction – taking your eye off the road
  • Manual distraction – taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive distraction – taking your mind off driving

Texting and driving is the trifecta of these three types of distraction. When a person reaches for a phone and starts browsing or tapping away at the keyboard, they are taking their hands off the wheel, their eyes off the road, and their mind off of driving. According to the CDC, sending or reading a text message while driving at 55 mph is like driving a length of a football field with your eyes closed.

What Georgia law says about texting and driving

In May of 2018, the Georgia governor signed the Hands-Free Georgia Act into law. This Act was a significant step forward in attempts to prevent car accidents in Atlanta.

In 2010, a previous Georgia law already banned the reading, writing, or sending text messages while driving, and another law already placed a ban on drivers under the age of 18 from using any wireless device at all while behind the wheel. While studies show that these measures did reduce the amount of fatal distracted driving accidents, they certainly did not eliminate the problem.

The 2018 law enacted the following measures:

  • Banning all drivers from engaging in “any actions which shall distract … driver[s] from the safe operation of [a] vehicle.” When we look at this language, we can see that it could be broadly applied to mean that drivers must not perform any action that causes a distraction. A person can be found guilty of violating the law for participating in a wide variety of activities behind the wheel, including using an electronic device, eating food, applying makeup, etc.
  • The new law prohibits a person from holding or physically supporting any stand-alone electronic device with the exception of headphones, wireless earpieces, or wrist-worn devices. Drivers can use Bluetooth headsets or their smartwatches to talk on their phones, but they cannot hold their phone with any part of their body.
  • The law also prohibits reading, writing, and sending all forms of communication while driving their vehicle. This includes text messages, emails, Internet data, and more.
  • Also prohibited is watching, broadcasting, or recording videos on a wireless device, with the exception of watching data related to GPS navigation.
  • Finally, the law says that drivers are not allowed to press more than one button to initiate or terminate voice communication on an electronic device while driving, and they may not reach for any device if doing so requires them to leave a seated position or take their seat belt off.

A violation of any of the 2018 Hands-Free Georgia Act constitutes a misdemeanor offense punishable by $50 for a first violation, $100 for a second violation, and $150 for third or subsequent violations.

Posted in: Car Accidents

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