By Jim Cheatham
As of July 1, the Hands-Free Georgia Act is now in effect.
Also known as House Bill 673, Governor Nathan Deal signed the Bill into law back in May, adding Georgia to the list of states banning the use of handheld cell phones and other devices while driving.
The law takes the current statute prohibiting texting and driving even further and prohibits even having your phone in your hand.
There are some exceptions, and the most applicable is that you still can pick up your phone to report an emergency. There is not a grace period with the Hands-Free Georgia Act. A jurisdiction may give warnings, but the law is fully enforceable as of July 1, 2018.
The law includes penalties, and though the fines may not seem high, this law comes with points on your license.
You would think that most of this would have been considered common sense. However, you do not have to drive around town long to witness a distracted driver. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration data for 2014 shows over 400,000 people were injured and over 3,000 people perished in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving. This number could be very low, as it only represents when distracted driving was able to be identified as attributing to a crash.
Dont do it. Drivers on their phones do not even realize they are driving badly. Youve seen it that car that cant seem to stay in their lane, the one still sitting at the traffic light well after the light turns green, the car in your rearview mirror that is approaching fast and slams on the brakes at the last second (you hope). Most of these drivers do not realize they were doing this until after the fact, and by then, it could be too late. A serious injury accident or fatality is completely unacceptable, but even a fender-bender costs time and money for everyone involved. It can wait. Put your device down, and focus on the road. Be safe Alpharetta.
Here are some key points you need to know to stay safe:
-You must use a speakerphone, earpiece, or wireless headphone, or the phone must be connected to the vehicle or an electronic watch.
-Earphones or headsets can only be worn for communication, not to listen to music.
-Text communication can only be done voice-based, which means that your voice is converted to text automatically, no reading or typing text-based communication.
-You cannot watch videos.
-You cannot record videos.
-Your social media posts will have to wait until you are parked.
-STOPPED AT A RED LIGHT IS NOT PARKED!
Penalties and Fines
-First conviction = $50 and one point on a license
-Second conviction = $100 and two points on a license
-Third and subsequent convictions = $150 and three points on a license
For information on the Georgia campaign against distracted driving, visit HeadsUpGeorgia.com.
You can read and learn more about the full law by visiting