Understand the rules, exceptions and penalties of Georgia’s Hands-Free Law
In an era where technology is a constant presence in our lives, the intersection of driving safety and mobile device usage has become a critical issue. In response, many states, including Georgia, have implemented “hands-free” laws to combat the dangers of distracted and reckless driving.
Officially known as House Bill 673, which took effect July 1, 2018, Georgia’s Hands-Free Law marks a significant step in enhancing road safety by setting strict guidelines on the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices while driving.
This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the law, outlining its key provisions and the penalties for non-compliance. Whether you’re a resident of Georgia or someone simply planning to drive through the Peach State, this guide offers essential insights into navigating the roads safely and legally.
Is texting and driving illegal in Georgia?
Yes, but Georgia’s new Hands-Free Law does much more than simply outlaw texting and driving. It aims to comprehensively address the broader issue of distracted driving by restricting the manual use of cell phones and other electronic devices to ensure drivers remain focused and their hands are free for safe vehicle operation.
So, what exactly does the Hands-Free GA Act make it illegal to do?
Below are the guidelines established in Georgia’s Hands-Free Law:
- Restriction on holding phones. The law explicitly prohibits drivers from holding a phone or using any part of their body to support the phone. This measure aims to ensure that drivers have both hands available for vehicle operation.
- Restrictions on text-based communication. Drivers are prohibited from sending, reading or writing any text-based communication unless it’s through voice-based communication that converts messages to text.
- Video and recording restrictions. Watching or recording videos is not allowed, except for navigation purposes. Dash cams that run continuously are exempt.
- Headset and earpiece restrictions. These are permitted for communication purposes only. Listening to music or other forms of entertainment is not allowed.
- Restrictions on music streaming apps. These can only be used if the driver programs them while parked. Any interaction with these apps while driving is prohibited, especially if the app includes video content.
However, Georgia’s Hands-Free Law does not apply to certain types of electronic communication devices, including:
- Standard car radios
- Citizens band radios and their hybrid versions
- Commercial 2-way radio communication devices
- Emergency communication devices that require a subscription
- Devices prescribed for medical use
- Amateur or ham radio devices
- Vehicle-integrated systems designed for security, navigation, or remote diagnostics
Furthermore, the law does allow the use of mobile phones through hands-free methods such as speakerphones, earpieces or wireless headphones or when the phone is connected to the vehicle or an electronic watch. Additionally, drivers are allowed to use GPS navigation devices.
Are there any exceptions to the Hands-Free Law in Georgia?
Yes, Georgia’s Hands-Free Law includes several specific exceptions where the use of a mobile device while driving is permitted under certain conditions, including:
- Emergency situations. Drivers are allowed to use a mobile device to report an accident, criminal activity, a medical emergency, a fire or a hazardous condition on the road. This exception acknowledges the need for immediate communication in urgent situations.
- Parked vehicles. Drivers are not subject to the Hands-Free Law when their vehicle is legally parked. However, this exemption does not extend to vehicles that are merely stopped at traffic lights or stop signs on public roads. Being “lawfully parked” implies that the vehicle is completely off the road and not causing any obstruction to traffic.
- Utility service workers. Employees or contractors of utility service providers can use a mobile device while driving if they’re using it to respond to a utility emergency. This exception is vital for ensuring prompt responses to situations like power outages or gas leaks.
- First responders. The law permits law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and other first responders to use their devices while performing their official work duties. This allows these professionals to communicate effectively while responding to emergencies.
These exceptions are designed to balance public safety concerns with the practical needs of emergency response and utility services, as well as to provide a reasonable allowance for drivers to use their devices when safely parked.
Are there any special rules for commercial vehicle operators or school bus drivers?
Yes, for commercial drivers and school bus operators, the law has specific guidelines:
- Commercial drivers can use one button to begin or end a call and should not reach for a device that requires them to unbuckle or leave their seats.
- School bus drivers are not allowed to use wireless devices when loading or unloading passengers and can only use devices for live communication with schools or public safety officials when the bus is in motion.
What are the penalties for breaking the
Hands-Free Law in Georgia?
The penalties for breaking Georgia’s Hands-Free Law are structured to escalate with subsequent offenses, emphasizing the importance of adhering to safe driving practices.
- First conviction. If a driver is convicted for the first time of violating the Hands-Free Law, they face a fine of $50 and will have 1 point assessed against their driver’s license. However, first-time offenders have an opportunity to have the charge dropped. To avail of this, they must demonstrate to the court that they have acquired a device enabling hands-free communication.
- Second conviction. If a driver is convicted a second time within 24 months of the first conviction, the fine increases to $100 and 2 points are assessed against their driver’s license.
- Third and subsequent convictions. For the third or subsequent convictions occurring within 24 months of the first, the penalty further escalates to a fine of $150 and 3 points on the driver’s license.
It’s important to note that the increased fines for second and third convictions apply only if these subsequent convictions occur within a 24-month period following the first conviction.
Yes, but only using hands-free methods such as a speakerphone, Bluetooth, or earpiece.
Can you hold your phone at a red light in Georgia?
No, in Georgia, you cannot hold your phone while operating a vehicle, and this includes when you are stopped at a red light or stop sign. The only time a driver can legally use their phone is when they’re lawfully parked.
Can you drive with AirPods in Georgia?
No, drivers are not allowed to wear headsets or earpieces for the purpose of listening to music or other forms of entertainment while driving. However, using an earpiece or headset for communication purposes is permissible.
This means that while you can use a single AirPod or similar device in one ear for making or receiving hands-free phone calls, using both AirPods for listening to music or other audio while driving would not be compliant with Georgia’s road safety laws.
Can you listen to music stored on your phone?
Yes, as long as you don’t hold or support the phone while driving.
Can you use music streaming apps while driving?
Yes, but you cannot touch your phone to activate or program these apps while driving. Additionally, streaming apps that include video are not allowed.
Can you touch your phone to make or answer a call?
Yes, you are allowed to touch your cell phone to make or answer a call. However, the law prohibits holding or supporting the phone with any part of your body while driving.
This means you can briefly interact with your phone for the purposes of initiating, receiving or ending a call as long as you don’t pick it up, but any more extensive use should be done through hands-free methods or while the vehicle is lawfully parked.
Are you required to buy hands-free accessories?
No, but it’s recommended for safety. Alternatively, you can place your phone on the console or seat without holding or supporting it.
Were you injured in a car accident with a distracted driver in Georgia?
If you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident or any other type of car accident because of someone else’s negligence in Georgia, it’s crucial to have seasoned legal representation to navigate the complexities of your case. At Gerber & Holder, our team of experienced Atlanta injury attorneys is dedicated to providing top-notch legal guidance and robust advocacy.