Governor Nathan Deal has officially signed the hands-free distracted driving proposal into law. All of us have witnessed people driving recklessly because of the use of their cell phones. That is why Governor Deal signed the legislation. Governor Deal signed the law in Statesboro with the families of the five Georgia Southern nursing students that were killed three years ago. The primary focus of this law is to force people to keep their eyes on the road and off their phones. Hopefully, this will help make Georgia's roads safer. However, with any new law, there may be situations where innocent people are accused. In that event, our Georgia Traffic Ticket Lawyers are ready to help if you are charged with violating Georgia's Distracted Driving Law.
We wanted to take some time and explain who will be impacted by this law and what the restrictions are. First, every driver in Georgia will be affected by this new law. Whether you are a resident of Georgia or just passing through to get to Florida, this the new law applies to you!
Georgia's Distracted Driving Law Explained:
The main point is that you are no longer allowed to hold or support a cell phone or other wireless communication device. This means you cannot hold a phone up to your ear or even hold it in your hand. You cannot use it to set your GPS or to change the music playing.
Essentially it is a no-touch rule. To talk on the phone, you either need Bluetooth, an earpiece, or a smartwatch. You must initiate a call through voice. Texting is permitted as long as you use Bluetooth via your voice. You are not allowed to hold your phone and look at the responding message. So, any text would have to be a one-way message.
One of the restrictions may seem strange, but it prohibits recording or broadcasting of videos. Many of the social media platforms like Instagram and even Facebook allow you to do live videos. While it may seem like common sense not to conduct a video while driving, it happens more than you think.
A couple of months ago, we wrote about how someone in Athens was snap chatting live their high-speed chase with officers. We have also seen news stories of people recording their reckless driving while on Facebook live. One such recording showed a young woman who was recording her own crash that killed her sister.
One thing that is important to note is that it is still illegal even if you are at a stop light. It does not matter whether you are stopped at a stop sign, red light, or at a crosswalk, you cannot use your phone. The only time it is permitted is if you are parked. “Parked” does not mean stopped.
There are very particular situations where citizens can use their phones. You can have a phone in your hand if you are making an emergency call. An emergency call includes reporting a traffic accident, criminal activity, fire, a medical emergency, or a hazardous road condition.
How is Georgia's Distracted Driving Law Related to DUI?
Unless at a roadblock, a police officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion to stop a driver. Most DUI investigations begin when a driver fails to maintain their lane, speeds, or they are involved in an accident. Georgia's New Distracted Driving Law give the police another reason to stop a vehicle and turn that brief encounter into an investigation of some other crime.
It also seems that this new law may be used as a pretext to pull-over drivers to see if they are impaired. The police always find a way to abuse their authority to start an investigation. Civil liberties do matter.
While the law has already been signed, it does not go into effect until July 1, 2018. Earlier this year there was a discussion of giving a 90-day grace period before the new law was enforced. However, the Governor's office stated that there would not be an official 90-day grace period. They did say that law enforcement officers will take some time to educate drivers on the new law. For example, Fayetteville police officers are working on some safety videos to demonstrate what is legal.
The penalty for violating the distracted driving law will be $50 for a first violation and $100 for a second violation. However, every violation will result in one point on your license. If you have more than 15 points on your license, it will be suspended. Not only can it put your license in jeopardy, but it could make your insurance rates go up.
If you are charged with any traffic violation, including Georgia's Distracted Driving Law, call our office. Our Georgia Traffic Ticket Attorneys have over 50 combined years of experience. Call now for a free case evaluation.