New Georgia Cell Phone Law 2018 – Hands-Free Georgia Act

New Georgia Cell Phone Law 2018 – Hands-Free Georgia Act

The New Georgia Cell Phone Law

There is a new Georgia cell phone law aimed at reducing accidents caused by distracted drivers. As of July 1, 2018 the State of Georgia has enacted a law (Hands-Free Georgia Act) prohibiting the use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. This article explains the new cell phone laws while driving in Georgia, and what it means for you as a driver in the State of Georgia.

The Hands-Free Georgia Act (HB 673/AP)

Cell phone use by drivers in Georgia can now result in a traffic stop and citation. The State of Georiga has passed new legislation aimed at reducing vehicular accidents caused by driver use of cell phones and similar mobile communication devices. Most people have heard of this law, and many are still asking “what does the new cell phone ban actually say”?. The short answer is that you are subject to being cited and fined for use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. This includes using a cell phone while you are stopped at a traffic light or otherwise not legally parked.

The Official Summary of The GA Distacted Driving Bill HB 673

The official summary of HB 673 is as follows:

To amend Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to motor vehicles and traffic, so as to prohibit actions which distract a driver while operating a motor vehicle; to provide for the proper and safe use of wireless telecommunications devices and stand-alone electronic devices while driving; to provide for definitions; to prohibit certain actions while operating a commercial motor vehicle; to provide for violations; to provide for punishment; to provide for exemptions; to provide for conditions under which a citation may be issued for violations; to provide for the assessment of points upon conviction; to repeal Code Sections 40-6-241.1 and 40-61-241.2, relating to definitions, prohibition on certain persons operating a motor vehicle while engaging in wireless communications, exceptions, and penalties and prohibition on persons operating a motor vehicle while writing, sending, or reading text based communications, prohibited uses of wireless telecommunication devices by drivers of commercial vehicles, exceptions, and penalties for violation, respectively; to correct cross-references; to provide for a short title; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

What Cell Phone Uses Are Now Illegal?

  • Having a phone in your hand or use any part of your body to support a device. using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, phone is connected to vehicle or an electronic watch.  GPS navigation devices are allowed.
  • Bluetooth headsets and ear-pieces can used for only communication purposes, not for listening to music, podcasts, or similar audio for learning or amusement.
  • Sending or reading any text-based communication, unless utilizing voice-based communication that converts voice to text, or is being used for navigation.
  • Sending or reading any text messages, e-mails, social media or similar electronic content
  • Watching a video (except for navigation), or use “Facetime” type features.
  • Recording videos or streaming video content (fixed-in-place dash cams and “GoPro cameras are exempt)
  • Managing music apps or sources that requires hands-on activity while operating a motor vehicle. You may program and play audio programs or files when they are controlled through your vehicle’s head unit.

What Types of Use Remains Legal?

  • The hands-free law does not preclude use of CB radios, commercial 2-way radios, subscription-based emergency communications, prescribed medical device, short-wave or ham radios, or in-vehicle security, navigation or remote diagnostics system.
  • Talking via a phone if it is done “hands-free” via Bluetooth technology.

What Are the Georgia Hands Free Law Penalties?

Under the new Hands-Free Georgia Act there are relatively stiff penalties, with progressive punitive measures.

  • First Conviction: Charged with a misdemeanor with a $50 fine, 1 points* assessed against driving privileges.
  • Second Conviction: Charged with a misdemeanor with a $100 fine, 2 points* assessed against driving privileges, and mandatory completion of a defensive driving course at their expense.
  • Third Conviction: Charged with a misdemeanor with a $150 fine, 3 points* assessed against driving privileges.

*In Georgia, a person;s driver’s license shall be suspended if you accumulate a violation point count of 15 or more points in any consecutive 24 month period. Failure to pay an assessed fine within 90 days after receipt of notice shall result in the suspension of the offender’s drivers license. To reinstate a suspended license requires an application and an additonal $50 fee. There is no guarantee that a suspended driver’s license will be reinstated.

How to Avoid Getting a Ticket for Cell Phone Use

While HB 673 makes it illegal for common ways people a cell phone while driving, there are ways around the law. The main thing to know is that you cannot hold or support the phone. The first thing you should do is to purchase a device that holds your cell phone, GPS, or other device. The best phone mounts and holders for your car are easy to install, and make it easy for you to let a police officer see that you have no need to hold your phone. Even the best cell phone holders for cars cost less thatn $20, which is far less than a citation. The typical phone mounts lock onto an air vent in your dash. Other types use a suction cup to mount to a hard surface such as your windshield. Once you can avoid the need to hold your device, you should learn about the do’s-and-dont’s of operating your device.

While a driver may not hold a phone, a driver is allowed “single touch or swipe of a finger” of a device to manage a function. Typically this would be a “single touch or swipe of a finger” to accept a call or engage a map function.

What Are Exceptions to HB 673?

  • Reporting a vehicle accident, criminal activity, medical emergency, fire or dangerous road conditions.
  • When driver is lawfully parked. This does NOT mean “stopped” at traffic lights, stop signs, etc.
  • Use by first responders (law enforcement, Fire, EMS) during the performance of their official duties.
  • Use by an employee/contractor/utility service provider responding to any utility emergency.

What to Do If You Get a Ticket

If you are cited for being in violation of the Hands-Free Georgia Act you will be fined, accrue points towards losing your license, and set yourself up for even harsher punishments for another offense. It may be in your best interest to contact a defense lawyer who may be able to have your charges dismissed. We invite you to call 678-880-9360 to arrange for an appointment to discuss your situation.

Jimmy Duncan
James Hobson is a marketing professional and author with 40 years of experience in sales, marketing, print and digital advertising. James is a frequent contributor to law firm and business blogs under the nom de plume Jimmy Duncan.
    • Heather S
    • January 16, 2024
    • Reply

    Rich people with fancy cars got bluetooth. Poor people have older cars with no bluetooth. Both talk on their phones, but who does this law target? Poor people. This isnt right.

    • Cortney Schleiss
    • September 3, 2023
    • Reply

    Can you get arrested for talking on your phone using bluetooth in my car? How could I prove to a cop that I was using bluetooth and not really using my phone?

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