Distracted Driving Laws in Georgia
Distracted driving in Georgia is an issue that is not taken lightly, as all drivers are prohibited from using a handheld mobile device while behind the wheel of a vehicle. These distracted driving laws pertain to novice and experienced motorists, school bus drivers and commercial vehicle operators. If motorists break these laws, then they will acquire violation points on their driving records and they will need to pay a fine.
According to national distracted driving facts, driver distractedness claimed the lives of 3,450 individuals during the 2016 year. In 2015, around 391,000 individuals sustained injuries due to driver inattentiveness. However, to prevent distracted driving accidents in the U.S., many states are banning the use of handheld mobile devices amongst all licensed drivers. In Georgia, drivers may only operate a cell phone if they use a handsfree communication device such as an earpiece. To learn more about these Georgia laws, review the information below.
What are driving distractions in Georgia?
What qualifies as distracted driving in Georgia may differ slightly from other states, as each state has its own definition of driver distractedness. However, Georgia defines a distraction as any activity that is manually, visually or cognitively distractive to the driver. For instance, various types of driving distractions may include texting, reading, eating and drinking, using a GPS device, speaking to other passengers or talking on the phone while operating a motor vehicle. Any event that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of driving is distractive and potentially dangerous.
Local facts about distracted driving in GA show that the number of inattentive drivers has unsteadily declined over the recent years. In 2010, for instance, 1,686 drivers were involved in a traffic-related fatality. Of this total number, 10.4 percent (175 drivers) were distracted at the time of the collision. In 2011, however, 1,689 drivers were involved in a traffic-related fatality but only 3.6 percent (61 motorists) were distracted at the time. In 2015, 2,041 motorists were involved in a fatal crash and just 3.5 percent (72 drivers) were distracted at the time. With Georgia’s new distracted driving law in effect, future instances of texting and driving related fatalities are expected to decline.
Distracted Driving Laws in Georgia for Handheld Devices
To stop distracted driving in GA, the General Assembly recently passed the Hands-Free Law (House Bill 673), which went into effect on July 1, 2018. As part of this law, drivers cannot hold any type of mobile device in their hand or on any part of their body (such as their lap) while they operate a motor vehicle on public roads. Drivers may only touch their phone while driving if they need to press a button to make or end a phone call.
Moreover, the act of talking on the phone while driving in GA is permitted if drivers use a hands-free component to make or receive calls. Various types of hands-free devices may include an earpiece, electronic watch, speakerphone or wireless headphone. However, drivers cannot use an earpiece or wireless headphone to listen to music while driving. As part of the distracted driving law, drivers are also prohibited from watching and recording videos or using Skype or FaceTime while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
While drivers must follow these laws against distracted driving to reduce driver distractedness, there are several exceptions to the Hands-Free Law. For instance, drivers can use their phone’s music streaming apps while the vehicle is in use, as long as they activate the application while their vehicle is parked. Additionally, the use of certain communication devices such as a radio, prescribed medical device, navigation system or a commercial two-way radio is not prohibited under the law.
As another exception to these GA laws on distracted driving, motorists may use a handheld mobile device in the event of an emergency or if their vehicle is parked. However, drivers must obey the Hands-Free Law whenever their vehicle is stopped in traffic, at a stop sign or a traffic signal.
Texting and Driving Laws in Georgia
Texting while driving in Georgia is illegal under the state’s Hands-Free Law. As part of these texting while driving laws, drivers cannot read, write or send text-based messages while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle unless they create the message using a voice-based communication system. For instance, drivers cannot read or send text messages, emails and instant messages, and they may not read or create social media posts. While driving a vehicle, motorists are also prohibited from browsing the internet.
Georgia Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
While the act of texting and driving in Georgia is illegal amongst adult and teenage drivers, motorists who are younger than 18 years of age are also prohibited from using any type of hands-free electronic device while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. This law applies to motorists with a learner’s permit or a Class D driver’s license. Therefore, any type of cell phone use while driving is illegal amongst teenage drivers in the state.
Georgia Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders
Texting and driving laws in GA also concern drivers of passenger automobiles, school buses and commercial vehicles. However, commercial drivers may talk on the phone while driving if they can put the phone on speakerphone and press a single button to begin or end the call. Additionally, the phone must be located near the commercial driver, so the motorist does not need to reach for the electronic device while the vehicle is in motion.
Moreover, most types of cell phone use while driving a school bus are also prohibited. For instance, school bus drivers cannot use a two-way radio or mobile device while unloading or loading passengers. When the vehicle is in motion, school bus operators may only use a wireless telecommunication device if they need to communicate with a school or public safety officials.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Georgia
The standard fine for distracted driving offenses ranges between $50 and $150. For instance, common distracted driving consequences in Georgia include fines under the following conditions:
- After the first conviction, motorists must pay a $50 fine and they will acquire one violation point.
- After the second conviction, drivers must pay a $100 fine and they will acquire two violation points.
- After three or more violations, motorists must pay a $150 fine and they will accumulate three demerit points on their driving records.
- If violators are younger than 18 years of age, then they must pay a $150 fine.
- If any violation results in a crash, then drivers must pay a fine of $300.
Moreover, commercial drivers who violate these laws may need to pay a fine of up to $2,750 and they may lose their privileges to operate a commercial motor vehicle for an established period of time.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in Georgia
Not only are the consequences for distracted driving in Georgia costly, but they are often deadly, as driver inattentiveness directly contributes to many traffic-related deaths and injuries. However, motorists can reduce driving distractions by:
- Purchasing a hands-free accessory (such as a Bluetooth) if they wish to talk on the phone while operating a motor vehicle.
- Purchasing a phone bracket or mount, if they wish to use their device for GPS purposes.
- Turning their phone on silent before getting into the vehicle.
- Downloading a text-blocking smartphone app such as AT&T DriveMode or Lifesaver.