Because laws about how you can use your phone in your car vary from state to state, it can seem like a gray area of whether calling or texting while driving is actually illegal, or simply a bad idea.
If you weren’t paying close attention, you might have missed it, but Georgia’s laws about cell phone use while driving were updated as recently as July 1, 2018. And they are very specific about what you can and can’t do with your phone while driving.
What Georgia’s 2018 Hands-Free Law Means for Drivers
As of July 1, 2018, Georgia passed a “hands-free” law which specifically restricts almost all cellphone use while driving. Before this law passed in 2018, only texting while driving was explicitly banned.
Unlike some states (including Georgia prior to mid-2018) where texting while driving laws only apply to certain drivers, such as teen drivers, this law apply to all Georgia drivers. Stipulations include:
- Drivers cannot hold their phone in their hand, or have their phone touching any part of their body (such as sitting on their lap on speaker phone or held between their ear and shoulder) when making phone calls while driving. Drivers must use a hands-free device to make calls.
- Drivers cannot read, write, or send text messages or emails when on the road.
- Drivers cannot read or post to social media when on the road.
- Drivers cannot run web searches while on the road.
- Drivers cannot watch or record videos using their phone while they’re on the road.
- Drivers cannot hold or touch their phone to open a streaming service, adjust volume, skip songs, change playlists, etc.
These rules apply even if their car is stopped at a stop sign or red light and not in motion. However, drivers can hold or operate their phones if they are sitting in a vehicle that is legally parked.
Are There Exceptions to Using Your Phone While Driving?
Yes, there are a handful of exceptions that let you use your phone, in specific and limited ways, while driving.
Firstly, don’t worry, because you can legally stream your favorite music as long as you can control the music through your car’s stereo and don’t need to touch your phone at any point while driving.
Secondly, the “no video” portion of the law doesn’t apply to using your phone to broadcast directions through a GPS app like Google Maps or Apple Maps.
Finally, it is possible to legally send text messages, as long as you are using a voice-to-text app and do not touch your phone at any point while composing and sending the message.
There are also a few special exceptions to when you are allowed to touch your phone, even if you are driving and not using a hands-free device. First responders and utility company employees and contractors who are responding to emergencies are allowed to use their phones, and ordinary drivers can also use their phones only if they need to report an emergency, crime, or traffic accident.
What’s the Penalty for Texting and Driving in Georgia?
If you get caught using your phone while driving, whether that’s texting, making a call, or opening Spotify, you could be facing a $50 fine and one point on your driver’s license.
If you are caught a second time within two years of the first offense, expect a $100 fine and two more points on your license. Each additional offense is worth a $150 fine and three more points on your license. Any driver who accumulates 15 points in a two-year period will have their license suspended.
While those may be the penalties, they are not the only potential consequences. Distracted driving is the cause of an average of eight deaths every day in the U.S., and countless more injuries. Drivers who injure others because they were negligent and driving while distracted can be held liable for injuries and property damage they cause in accidents.
Were You Injured By a Distracted Driver?
Most drivers are aware that texting while driving is extremely dangerous, even if they weren’t sure whether it’s actually illegal or not. When drivers knowingly behave negligently, they can be held liable for the injuries they cause.
When you hire the experienced team of Georgia car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we’ll gather evidence to help prove the other drive caused your injuries by driving distracted, and fight for the compensation you need to recover your damages.