Georgia is now Hands-Free

Distracted driving has emerged as a patient safety epidemic.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distracted driving is responsible for about 16 percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S. – which translates into some 5,000 deaths per year.

The ‘End Distracted Driving’ campaign says that, “There is clear evidence that talking on a hands-free device is distracting and reduces the driver’s ability to react. There are some mixed studies that show hands free use of phones, including voice to text, is just as dangerous as holding a device. Also, there are studies that show the laws do not work without strong enforcement and public awareness campaigns.”

And NSC, reports that, “In states with hand held device bans, the crash death rates were reduced from 11.8 deaths per 100,000 to 7.3 per 100,000.”

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from driving, including texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, eating and drinking, grooming, reading, looking at maps, using a navigation system, and adjusting the radio.

In addition to MAG's legislative efforts, the MAG Foundation, the Medical Association of Atlanta, and the MAG Alliance  have raised public awareness on the dangers associated with distracted driving. Contact Lori Cassity Murphy at lmurphy@mag.org or 678.303.9282 for details.

Then-Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed one of the Medical Association of Georgia’s (MAG) legislative patient safety priorities into law in 2018. H.B. 673 by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) made it illegal for drivers to use a cell phone on anything other than a hands-free basis. It includes an escalating schedule of fines and “points” for multiple violations. Contact Bethany Sherrer at bsherrer@mag.org for more information on Georgia's hands-free law.   

Georgia drivers are not allowed to...

– Physically hold or support a wireless telecommunications device (i.e. mobile phone) or a stand-alone electronic device (i.e. iPad, iPod, Kindle, etc.) with any part of the body; exceptions would be made for an earpiece, headphone device or telecommunications device worn on a wrist (i.e. smart watch).

– Write, send or read any text-based communication, including but not limited to instant message, e-mail or internet data; exceptions would be allowed for voice-to-text technology.

– Watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.

– Record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; this would not apply to devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle (i.e. dash cams).

Drivers are allowed to...

– Use their phone for voice communication on a hands-free basis.

– Touch their phone for dialing, receiving or ending a call as long as the driver is not holding or supporting the phone.

– Use their phone for GPS navigation apps.

– Use voice-to-text technology.

FAQ

Why was a hands-free law needed in Georgia?

Rep. Carson states that, "Our state has seen significant increases in vehicle traffic crashes, fatalities and bodily injury. The vast majority of these increases have been in rear-end crashes, single-car crashes and crashes by drivers from 15 to 25-years-old. State and local law enforcement have stated that these incidents are a clear indication of driver inattention. The 15 states that have passed hands-free driving laws saw a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in the two years after the law was passed. In addition, traffic fatalities were reduced even further in subsequent years."

Can I still talk on my phone while driving?

Yes, as long as it is done hands-free. Drivers are able to use their phone's speakerphone, Bluetooth technology, an earpiece, a headphone or other device to allow them to communicate on a hands-free basis.

Can I touch my cellphone to dial a number or receive or end a call?

Yes. The law simply prohibits drivers from holding or supporting the phone.

Am I be required to purchase a hands-free accessory (e.g., a mount or bracket)?

No. The law simply states that a driver cannot hold or support a mobile phone. A phone can be left on a vehicle's console, a front seat, etc. However, for the safety of all Georgians, state and local law enforcement recommend the purchase and use of a hands-free device if using a mobile phone while driving.

How can I comply with this law if my vehicle does not have Bluetooth?

Many online retailers offer a Bluetooth adapter for vehicles without Bluetooth or similar technology built into the vehicle. These adapters can be found at local retailers or online by searching "Bluetooth hands-free car kit" in an internet search engine.

What are the fines/penalties for violating Georgia's hands-free law?

– The first conviction is $50 and one point on your license.

– The second conviction is $100 and two points on your license.

– The third and subsequent convictions are $150 and three points on your license.

Can I talk to someone via video telephony apps like FaceTime or Skype if I'm doing so on a hands-free basis?

No. The proposed hands-free driving law states that a driver shall not "record or broadcast a video" on any mobile phones, iPads, computers, etc. while operating a vehicle.

Click here for more information on Georgia's hands-free law.