Whether you’re studying for your Georgia driver’s license exam or are an experienced long-time driver in the Peach State, you should know about House Bill 673. Also referred to as the Hands Free Law, it went into effect on July 1, 2018. It restricts the way you can use your cell phone in your car. Because of it, officers gave out nearly 50,000 citations in the first two years. The bill was championed by State Representative John Carson (R-Marietta).
“HB 673 has received extensive input and was thoroughly studied and perfected,” Carson said. “I am confident this bill will make our state’s roadways safer for all Georgia commuters and decrease the number of distracted driving crashes.”
Here’s what you should know about the Georgia distracted driving law.
Basics of the Hands Free Law
Under HB 673, you cannot hold the phone in your hand or use any part of your body to hold the phone in place while driving. You can only speak into the speakerphone or use an earpiece or wireless headphone. GPS navigation is allowed, but you must program it while you are parked.
You also cannot write, read, or send texts or other electronic messages. You can, however, touch the phone to dial a number or end or receive a call. You just cannot hold it. In addition, existing laws also ban anyone 18 or younger from using a phone at all while driving.
Music-streaming apps are allowed but must be programmed while the car is parked. You cannot touch the phone to change a song or find a new playlist while you drive. You cannot record or watch a video either. That means taking a video call through an app like Skype or FaceTime is not allowed either. Continuously running dash cams, however, are exempt from the law.
What Devices Can You Use Under Georgia's Distracted Driving Law?
The law does not affect your ability to turn on or operate a:
Commercial two-way radio
Prescribed medical device
Remote diagnostics system
Subscription-based emergency device
If You Are Pulled Over for Using a Phone While Driving in Georgia
If you are stopped by a Georgia police officer, he or she has the option to issue you a full citation, with a fine, or simply give you a warning. If you are issued a citation, includes a $50 fine and adds one point to your driving record. The second citation adds two points and a $100 fine, and the third is three points and a $150 fine. Points could negatively affect your insurance rates.
Even if an officer suspects you are distracted while driving, they can pull you over. Ethan Johnson, a police officer with Georgia Southwestern State University, has experience enforcing this law for the past two years.
“The common giveaway, particularly at night, is seeing the driver’s face lit up by the phone screen while they glance down towards their lap,” Johnson said. “Sometimes they will hold the phone high enough to where you can see they are texting if you happen to be close enough when you drive by.”
What You Can Do to Stay Focused While Driving
The law does not require you to buy hands-free technology. The simple solution to prevent yourself from being a distracted driver is to not use your phone at all when you drive.
While the emphasis on the law is to minimize the distraction electronic devices bring, more laws are still needed, says Darren Tobin, of Tobin Injury Law, in Georgia.
“This recent law has curtailed a lot of accidents," said Tobin. "But we still see people driving while doing their makeup, shaving, and eating. Lawmakers in Georgia are next pushing to ban anything that can take your eyes off the road while simultaneously being distracted.”
If you have specific questions about the law, you can contact state experts directly to ask them your questions. Distracted driving is also covered extensively in our state-approved Georgia driver’s education course. Sign up for a Georgia DriversEd.com course today!