Starting as of July 1, 2018, it is now illegal in Georgia to drive while holding a cellphone. The Hands-Free Georgia Act, or House Bill 673, is the latest development in the state’s efforts to decrease distracted driving accidents and increase roadway safety. According to the new law, using a handheld cellphone is against the law while operating a vehicle in the state, except in a few situations. It is also illegal for school bus drivers to use two-way radios or cellphones while loading /unloading passengers. Learn what the new law means for you as a driver in the state of Georgia.
The hands-free law does not mean you can’t use your phone at all while driving. Instead, it limits the type of use to hands-free only. You can still talk on the phone while driving in Georgia as long as you use speakerphone, Bluetooth, a headset, earpiece, electronic watch, or other hands-free device or vehicle feature. You can touch your phone as long as it is to dial a number or answer/end a call. You cannot hold your cellphone in your hand to talk, text, or perform other electronic functions. Cellphone use must be hands-free.
According to the text of the law: “No individual shall, while operating a motor vehicle, physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.” The law states that voice-based communication and using a device for navigation are legal as long as they are hands-free and don’t take more than a single button to initiate and terminate voice communication.
If you lawfully park your vehicle (park, not stop at a red light or in traffic), you may use your hands to operate your cellphone. It is illegal to touch or reach for a cellphone or other electronic device if it requires the driver to leave his/her seated position or remove the seatbelt. Certain activities on a cellphone are always illegal in Georgia, whether they are hands-free or not. Drivers can never engage in any action that distracts them while driving, as this can result in motor vehicle accidents. They cannot watch movies or videos or record/broadcast videos while driving.
Breaking the Hands-Free Law will lead to penalties of up to $50 for a first conviction, $100 for two convictions within two years, or $150 for three convictions within two years. Drivers will also receive one, two, or three points on their licenses. The only exception to the Hands-Free Law is if the driver is reporting a crime, dangerous road condition, traffic accident, fire, or medical emergency. Utility workers, police officers, firefighters, and emergency personnel may use hand-held electronic devices as long as they are acting within the scope of employment.
Part of the Hands-Free Law involves using Bluetooth or other headsets to talk on a cellphone hands-free. It is legal to use headphones while driving in Georgia if you are using them for communication purposes, such as taking a phone call. It is unlawful, however, to listen to music or other entertainment through headphones while driving. This is a dangerous and illegal practice that can distract the driver, impeded the ability to hear roadway sounds (such as someone honking the horn), and lead to a criminal violation.
Comply with the new law by putting your cellphone down while driving. You do not need to install a hands-free accessory such as a mount as long as you put your phone somewhere in the vehicle and don’t touch it while you drive. However, law enforcement recommends you purchase hands-free accessories if you plan on using your phone behind the wheel. If your vehicle does not have Bluetooth capabilities, you can purchase an adapter, such as a hands-free Bluetooth car kit. Learn more about the new law at Heads UP Georgia.