Texting While Driving
Georgia House Bill 673- “Hands Free Law”
Summary by Georgia personal injury lawyer Casey W. Stevens
On July 1, 2018 Georgia House Bill 673 took effect, taking the prior “no texting while driving” law one step further. This bill makes it illegal for drivers to have a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support a phone. That’s right folks, you can’t even have it on your lap!
The State of Georgia has seen significant increases in car and truck accidents, fatalities and bodily injury. The vast majority of these increases have been in single-car crashes, rear-end crashes, and crashes by drivers from 15 to 25-years-old. These accidents are caused by driver inattention. 15 states before Georgia passed hands-free driving laws. They saw a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in the first two years after the law was passed, with further improvements in subsequent years. The 15 states that have passed hands-free driving laws saw a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in the two years after the law was passed. In addition, traffic fatalities were reduced even further in subsequent years.
What is allowed? Drivers can use their phones to make or receive calls only if they are using the hands-free features in their car or on their smart devices. They can use things like Bluetooth or Uconnect, earpieces, wireless headphones, or phones connected to their watches. They can so use their phone for navigational purposes, only if the address is entered before departure or by a passenger. After that, the phone must be left in a holder on the dashboard.
Headsets and earpieces may only be used for phone calls, and not to listen to music or other entertainment. Texting, is not allowed unless the driving is sending a text via voice and listening to a text that has been transcribed by a text to voice recognition system.
Reading or writing emails, watching videos or doing anything on the internet at all while driving except in the instance of use for navigation. A driver can glance at, but not interact with a internet based navigation system.
Drivers may listen to apps that stream music while driving, and may also listen to automatic play lists. They may not, at any time interact with their phone to change stations, skip or search for music or the like.
The hands-free law does not apply to the use of a car radio, citizens band (CB) radio, commercial two-way radios or subscription-based emergency communication devices. It also does not apply to medical devices prescribed by a doctor, in-vehicle security, built in navigation systems or remote diagnostic systems.
Drivers may only video if they have a continuous recording dash-cam, and may not start or stop a video or take a photo using their phone or other device while operating a vehicle.
Drivers of vehicles are not permitted to touch their phone or other hand-held device unless their vehicle is legally parked. Using a device at a traffic signal is not permitted.Exceptions to the Hands-Free Law
The only exceptions to the hands-free law are as follows:
Reporting a car accident, medical emergency, crime, fire or hazardous road conditions are acceptable exceptions to the hands-free law. First responders and utility service providers who are acting within the scope of their jobs are exempt.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators may initiate or end a call using one button if the device can be operated without removing a seatbelt or maintaining a properly seated position.
School Bus Drivers cannot use any wireless communication device or radio while loading or unloading passengers. School bus drivers may only use communication devices while a bus is in motion to communicate with other drivers or school and public safety officials.Enforcement
Any violation of the hands-free law is subject to receiving a citation and points on their license, whether the violation resulted in a crash or not.