Submitted by Jon Freeman

A bill known as the “Hands Free Law” was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and then signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on May 2, 2018. The Hands Free Law will take effect on July 1, 2018. Links to websites with more detailed information about this law can be found at the end of this article. The following is a brief description of what the law states and some frequently asked questions from the Hands Free Law webpage of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia:

1. A driver cannot have a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone. Drivers can only use their phones to make or receive phone calls by using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, phone is connected to vehicle or an electronic watch. GPS navigation devices are allowed.
2. Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes and not for listening to music or other entertainment.
3. A driver may not send or read any text-based communication unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS
4. A driver may not write, send or read any text messages, e-mails, social media or internet data content
5. A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
6. A driver may not record a video (continuously running dash cams are exempt)
7. Music streaming apps can be used provided the driver activates and programs them when they are parked. Drivers cannot touch their phones to do anything to their music apps when they are on the road. Music streaming apps that include video also are not allowed since drivers cannot watch videos when on the road. Drivers can listen to and program music streaming apps that are connected to and controlled through their vehicle’s radio.

EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. Reporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity or hazardous road conditions.
2. An employee or contractor of an utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment while responding to an utility emergency.
3. A first responder (law enforcement, fire, EMS) during the performance of their official duties.
4. When in a lawfully parked vehicle—this DOES NOT include vehicles stopped for traffic signals and stop signs on the public roadway.

ENFORCEMENT

When the Hands-Free law takes effect July 1, the Georgia Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement have the option to issue warnings for violations as part of the effort to educate and to help motorists adapt to the new law. However, citations can and will be issued starting July 1 for any violation of the Hands-Free Law, including those where the violation involves a traffic crash. There is not a 90-day grace period provision in the Hands-Free Law.

For more information about the new Georgia Hands Free Law feel free to take a look at the following websites:

Georgia Highway Safety

Heads Up Georgia

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia Department of Driver Services