Governor Nathan Deal made Georgia the 16th state in the nation to enact a law banning drivers from having a cellphone in their hand when he signed House Bill 673 Wednesday afternoon in Statesboro.
When the law takes effect on July 1 of this year, drivers will no longer be allowed to have a phone in their hand or supported by any part of their body.
“It’s second nature to pick up our phones when we are behind the wheel but if you have it in your hand when driving after July 1, you run the risk of getting a ticket,” Harris Blackwood, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway said. “While we encourage everyone to stay off their phones, we recommend drivers to implement now whatever they will need in order to place and receive calls without having the phone in their hands or on their bodies.”
Authored by Representative John Carson (R-Marietta) and passed during the 2018 Georgia General Assembly Session, drivers will have to have an earpiece, wireless headsets or smartphone watch in order to make and receive calls and to use navigational devices.
Texting, sending and receiving e-mails, posting on social media, and browsing the internet are all prohibited, but drivers can text if they are using technology that converts voice to text messages.
Watching and recording videos are not allowed except for videos that are used for navigational purposes and continuously running dash cams.
It is also illegal for drivers to have a phone in their hand when they are stopped for a traffic signal or stop sign. It is legal to make a hand-held phone call or send a text, e-mail or social media post when the vehicle is lawfully parked.
Drivers are allowed to have a phone in their hand to make emergency calls to report a traffic crash, criminal activity, fire, medical emergency or hazardous road conditions.
Law enforcement officers, fire and EMS personnel and employees, and contractors of utility companies are exempt under the law providing the call is related to their official duties or while responding to a utility emergency.
While most state and local law enforcement officers will be working to educate all motorists on HB 673 in the first few months, drivers should not expect to automatically receive a warning if they are stopped for violating the Hands-Free law.
After July 1, law enforcement officers can and will issue citations in crashes caused by distracted driving and to drivers they feel should be issued a citation for the violation the officer observed.
“Our law enforcement community is ready to work with all drivers to help them understand and abide by the new “Hands-Free” law,” Blackwood said. “Putting our phones down when we are behind the wheel will make our roads safer for everyone to drive, walk and bike because it means we all be more attentive when we behind the steering wheel.”