Let’s face it. We all love our mobile devices. They keep us connected with colleagues, friends, and family. They help us map out our travels and avoid traffic snarls. And they serve as entertainment no matter where we are. Sadly, despite how convenient and enjoyable these devices are, they are also an incredible danger on Georgia roadways.
Start the new year off right by reviewing just how dangerous mobile devices can be on our roadways, and what Georgia’s hands free laws are doing to protect you and your family.
Mobile Devices are Dangerous and Deadly
Between 2014 and 2016, the number of deadly auto accidents caused by distracted driving rose considerably. Georgia saw the fifth-highest increase in the nation during that time. In 2016 alone, at least 1,500 people died in auto accident, with the majority caused by distractions, alcohol, or speed.
Across the U.S., more than 3,000 people die in auto accident each year that are directly related to distracted driving. Officials largely agree that mobile devices (i.e. cell phones) are the largest cause of distractions causing auto accidents. According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, in 2015, at least 14 percent of all fatal distracted driving accidents involved cell phone use.
Georgia’s Hands Free Laws
Most (if not all) Georgia drivers are aware of the Hands-Free Georgia Act, which took effect on July 1, 2018. Aimed at reducing distracted driving on Georgia roadways, the “hands free” law made headlines across the state. The law made it illegal for drivers to do the following:
- Drive while holding a cell phone in their hand, or propped on any part of the body while talking on the phone.
- Read, write, or send text messages, emails, or social media content while driving (speech-to-text is allowed for sending messages).
- Watch videos while on the road (except for GPS or navigation images).
- Use a cell phone or other electronic device to record video while driving.
So, what is not illegal? As noted, drivers can still utilize navigation systems, and use speech-to-text if sending a message is urgent. Other activities that are not included in the hands free law include:
Listening to music that is streaming so long as the video screen is off and listening does not require handheld control.
- Wearing or using a smart watch.
- Using an earpiece or integrated microphone to talk while driving.
- Using a CB radio or other communication device in commercial vehicles.
- Using a cell phone to report an emergency, such as an auto accident.
- Using your cell phone while parked in a lawful parking area, such as a parking lot or driveway.
The hands free law is not aimed at restricting the freedom of drivers, but rather is an attempt to help all drivers and passengers on Georgia roadways be safe.
Consequences of Violating Georgia’s Hands Free Laws
Like all laws, there are consequences for violating Georgia’s hands free laws. According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, the penalties are as follows:
- First Offense – $50 fine and one point on driver’s license
- Second Offense – $100 fine and two points on driver’s license
- Third Offense (or more) – $150 fine and three points on driver’s license
Any driver who accrues 15 points over a 24-month period will be subject to a suspension of his or her driver’s license. It is important to remember that Georgia law allows points to be placed against your driver’s license for a variety of offenses. Violations of the hands free law are only one possible element.
Will Hands Free Laws Work?
Though the number of accidents related to distracted driving seems to be on the decline, most of us see drivers using their cell phones while driving on a daily basis. Many people remain skeptical about whether the law is really effective, or if law enforcement can even enforce such a measure. There is also some concern that accidents involving cell phone use will be underreported in an effort to prevent “violations” on a driver’s record.
Many auto accidents have already been reported on Metro-Atlanta roadways since the start of the new year. Several have caused serious injuries and some have resulted in multiple deaths. With distracted driving continuing to be a major cause of accidents, it is important that drivers are aware of changing laws and take steps to be as safe as possible.
Learn More about Hands Free Laws and Your Legal Rights
If you have questions about Georgia’s hands free laws, or have been injured in an auto accident and want to learn more about your legal rights, contact The Embry Law Firm. If you believe that your accident was caused by distracted driving or another form of recklessness, you may be entitled to compensation. Find out more about your case, and determine the best options by scheduling a free consultation with our Douglasville auto accident attorney.