July 3, 2018

New Law: Put Down Your Phone While Driving


Georgia’s new “hands-free law” took effect July 1. No, that doesn’t mean it’s legal to drive with your knees while you eat a cheeseburger and watch YouTube. In fact, it’s the opposite: The law cracks down on distracted driving by making it illegal to use your cellphone while driving. That means not only texting—which was already illegal but difficult to enforce—but making or answering phone calls, browsing the internet, using social media or watching or recording videos as well.

The law prohibits drivers from having a phone or other electronic device in their hand or supported by any part of their body while driving—including at stop signs and traffic lights. Calls can still be made by speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headset or smart watch, or by connecting your phone to the car and dialing by voice. Voice-to-text remains legal as well, as does using a continually recording dash-mounted camera.

The penalty for violating the law is a $50 fine and one point off your license for the first offense, $100 and two points for the second and $150 and three points for the third.

Traffic deaths are up 10 percent since 2014, and studies have found that smartphone use is often a culprit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that distracted drivers killed 3,450 people in 2016. We’ve all seen folks driving around Athens messing around with a phone on their lap or even watching videos while holding it up on the steering wheel. That’s not only a great way to get into a wreck with another vehicle, but to miss seeing a pedestrian in a crosswalk.