Most Georgians are unaware that distracted driving, also known as texting while driving in Georgia, has been illegal since 2010. However, a new law went into effect today, July 1, 2018. The law is known as the Hands-Free Georgia Act.
Today, as a Georgia DUI Lawyer, I'd like to outline the Hands-Free Georgia Act, so Georgians can better understand the changes in the law, what's legal, and what you're facing if convicted.
The Hands-Free Georgia Act
The 2010 law is in the Georgia Code as:
“No person who is 18 years of age or older or who has a Class C license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data.” O.C.G.A. §40-6-241.2(b).
Another part of the statute prohibits drivers under 18 years of age to use any type of wireless communication while driving (applying to drivers holding their learner's permit or Class D license). Currently, there are exceptions to this statute such as while the car is legally parked or for the purpose of reporting an accident or crime.
The statute defines a wireless telecommunications device as a cell phone, a text messaging device, a digital personal assistant, a stand-alone computer, or anything else that is used to initiate and receive wireless communication.
So now for the new law…
The Hands-Free Georgia Act changed different parts of Title 40 of the O.C.G.A. and replaced the term “cell phone” with “wireless telecommunications device” as defined above in O.C.G.A. §40-6-241, so as to cut out any confusion as to what constitutes a device.
There is also a new provision that has been added to §40-6 which states that while operating a vehicle on any Georgia road that no one will be permitted to:
- “Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device
- Reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a safety belt
- Write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device
- Watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand alone electronic device other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle
- Record a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.”
However, driver will be permitted to send a voice-based communication (even if it's automatically converted to be sent as a text message) and to use his or her device for navigation or for global positioning system purposes.
The final added provision is that violating any of the above sections will be considered a misdemeanor. Each provision is charged individually. The penalty includes a minimum fee of $300.