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What You Need to Know about Georgia’s Hand-Free Law

By Butler Prather LLP on January 28, 2020

Distracted driving is nothing new. However, the increase in technology in our lives has significantly increased the number of distracted driving accidents on the roadways. Distracted driving accidents often lead to serious injuries or fatalities. Most states have passed certain restrictions on how a person can use cell phones while they are driving. Georgia’s hands-free law went into effect on July 1, 2018 with the implementation of HB 673.

Georgia’s Hand-Free Law

What does the hand-free law in Georgia say?

Pursuant to Georgia law, drivers in Georgia are prohibited from the following:

  • Holding or supporting, with any part of the body (including the shoulder or lap), a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.
  • Writing, sending, or reading any text-based communication, including a text message, instant message, email, or internet data.
  • Watching, recording, or broadcasting a video or movie.

This law makes it illegal for drivers to hold their phones for just about any reason, except during emergencies. The only time a driver can touch their phone is to receive or end a call. Drivers are not allowed to watch videos or listen to music through their earbuds. Drivers are allowed to use GPS on their phones as long as they program the destination before they start driving. Drivers are allowed to talk on the phone (even with a headset) as long as they are doing so hands-free.

What about when the car is stopped?

The Georgia hands-free law makes a distinction between being parked and being stopped. If a driver is parked legally, they are allowed to use their phone for any purposes, including calls, texts, browsing the Internet, or anything else. However, if a driver is simply stopped (at a red light, stop sign, in traffic, or anywhere else on the roadway), then the hands-free law still applies.

Are there any exemptions to the hands-free law?

There are limited exemptions to the Georgia hands-free law. These exemptions include:

  • Reporting an emergency. A driver may use their phone inside the car to report various emergencies, such as a traffic accident, a medical emergency, hazardous roadway conditions, a crime, a fire, etc. Drivers who report an emergency are still expected to operate their vehicles safely. Ideally, it is recommended that drivers pull over and then report the emergency.
  • First responders. Those first responders who are on duty, such as police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel are exempt from the hands-free law.
  • Utility workers. If a utility worker is in their work vehicle and acting in the scope of their job duties, they are also exempt from the hands-free law.

What are the penalties for violating the law?

There is a range of penalties that drivers could face for violating Georgia’s hands-free law. This includes:

  • First conviction – 1 point on license and a $50.00 fine.
  • Second conviction – 2 points on license and a $100.00 fine.
  • Third or subsequent conviction – 3 points on license and a $150.00 fine.

Distracted driving is dangerous driving

Georgia’s hands-free law his design to keep everyone on the roadway safe. Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous and can lead to serious injuries in the event an accident occurs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,000 people were killed on US roadways due to distracted driving during the latest reporting year. Many thousands more were injured and were left dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial consequences of the devastating car crash.

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