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Distracted Driving Laws in Georgia

Distracted driving can occur in a wide variety of ways. This includes using a phone or another type of device, eating or drinking behind the wheel, playing with pets, talking to others in the vehicle, rubbernecking, and more. Distracted Driving Awareness Month is in April, a National Safety Council initiative. The agency wants to help decrease the total number of distracted driving injuries and fatalities across the country. Because of the extreme dangers of distracted driving, the state of Georgia has passed various laws to help curb the risks.

Georgia’s Hands-Free Law

In response to the increasing dangers associated with distracted driving, Georgia enacted the Hands-Free Law on July 1, 2018. This law aims to reduce accidents caused by drivers distracted by their mobile devices while driving. Under this law, drivers are prohibited from holding a phone or supporting a phone with their body while operating a vehicle.

Here are the key provisions of the law:

  • Holding a phone. Drivers cannot hold or support a phone with any part of their body. This includes texting, emailing, or browsing social media.
  • Headphones and earpieces. While using headphones or earpieces for communication is allowed, these devices cannot be used for listening to music or other forms of entertainment.
  • Voice-to-text features. The law allows for voice-to-text technology, providing a safer alternative to manually texting or emailing.
  • GPS and navigational devices. GPS and navigational devices are permitted, but programming them while driving is not. Drivers are encouraged to set their destinations before they begin driving.
  • Emergency exceptions. The law allows for phone use while driving in case of an emergency. This includes reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, crime, or hazardous road conditions.

Penalties for Violating the Hands-Free Law in Georgia

Violating the Hands-Free Law in Georgia comes with its own set of penalties. First-time offenders can expect a fine of $50 and one point on their driver’s license. The penalties increase with subsequent offenses, with a second offense costing $100 and two points on the license and a third offense $150 and three points.

Other Laws Related to Distracted Driving

The state of Georgia also has a reckless driving motor vehicle statute on the books that could be applied to distracted driving claims. Under GA Code § 40-6-390 (2020), any person who operates a vehicle in a reckless disregard for the safety of other individuals or property could be found guilty of this offense. This is considered a misdemeanor offense in Georgia, and punishment upon conviction could include a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 12 months, or both.

The reckless driving statute in Georgia is relatively vague, giving law enforcement officials significant leeway when issuing the citation. If a law enforcement officer deems that a person’s distracted driving was done with reckless disregard for the safety of other drivers in Georgia, they could undoubtedly face this charge and be convicted. However, in the event an individual causes a severe injury or fatality due to their distracted driving, it is likely more severe charges will apply.