Hands Free Georgia
This is Ann Margaret Perkins with Perkins Law Firm. I wonder if you know that according to distraction.gov, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. When we’re driving a car we’re traveling 1.466 feet per second for every mile an hour we’re going. So at 45 miles per hour, in the time it takes you to send or read a text, you’ve traveled the length of a football field. That period of time with your eyes off the road is more than enough time for tragedy to strike, which is why our legislature in 2018 passed a law called the Hands-Free Georgia Act. That’s what I’ll be talking about today.
The effective date of the Hands-Free Georgia Act is July 1st, 2018. The act is strict, and it is for good reason. The publicity surrounding this new law from the State indicates that, initially at least, law enforcement are going to be taking an educational approach to violations as opposed to just citing people. That won’t continue long term; so, the best practice is going to be to know what the law provides for and to start acting in accordance with it right away. So let me tell you about what’s in this law.
There are some special restrictions on both bus drivers and commercial vehicles, but I’m going to be talking about what applies to the rest of us as drivers. The big picture is this: it is going to be illegal in Georgia to physically hold or support with any part of your body, either a wireless telecommunications device (cell phone, portable telephone, text messaging device, personal digital assistant, standalone computer, global positioning system receiver or substantially similar portable wireless device used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data) or a standalone electronic device (any other kind of wireless telecommunications device which stores audio or video which can be retrieved on demand). The law does not apply to a number of things including the use of your radio, subscription-based emergency communication devices, or in-vehicle navigation or remote diagnostics systems.
The law makes it illegal for you to write, send, or read any text message, e-mail and internet data, with a couple of exceptions. You can do those things if you can do it through a voice-based system, or it’s the use of the device for navigation. The law makes it illegal to watch a video or a movie other than watching data related to the navigation of your vehicle, and it makes it illegal to record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or standalone electronic device while you’re using your vehicle.
There are some exceptions to the prohibitions in the law. You may use your device for reporting a traffic accident or a medical emergency, fire, actual or potential criminal or delinquent act, or a road condition that causes immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard, or while you were in your vehicle and it is lawfully parked.
The fines associated with violating the law are $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second, and $150 for the third. The fines are not the most significant aspect of punishment for violating the law, however. Where you will really see the effects of this are: a first violation results in one point against your license, the second, two, and a third or subsequent, three points. So you can quickly accrue points against your license which will either result in the suspension of your license or increased insurance rates.
To sum up, “Put down your phone and drive.” I hope we all can do that. I know it’s hard. It’s easy to be tempted to just do this very quickly. We don’t really realize all the danger we’re causing to ourselves and others. So hopefully this will help us all to be more disciplined and less distracted. Thanks for listening. I hope this has been helpful to you. If we can ever help you with a case that involves personal injury or wrongful death, we’re happy to talk with you. Our number is 770-834-2083. Or you can check us out on our website injuryispersonal.com. Have a great day.