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Understanding Georgia’s Hands-Free Driving Law

Since 2012, there have been over 300,000 traffic collisions in Georgia on a yearly basis. This number spiked by 50,000 crashes in 2015 (385,221 reported accidents), an alarming hike that is greatly attributed to cell phone use and other distracted driving behaviors. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), there were 1,512 fatalities – an average of 4 deaths per day – in 2018 alone, with the “primary culprit” being unsafe driving behaviors, such as distracted driving.

A distracted driving accident can result the following catastrophic injuries and more:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Neck injuries
  • Penetration injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Burn injuries
  • Multiple bone fractures
  • Neck injuries
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Paralysis

A phone call or text is never worth the price. But are hands-free devices truly a safer option?

House Bill 673: Georgia Becomes the 16th State to Enact a Hands-Free Driving Law

To counter these tragic numbers, the Georgia General Assembly and Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 673 into law last year, making it illegal for motorists to physically use their cell phones while driving in the state of Georgia. However, there was still a significant increase in the number of distracted driving accidents in the year spanning July 2018 and July 2019 because many people don’t know or understand the policies that comprise this new law.

To help you and your loved ones stay safe while cruising the streets and highways of Georgia, the car accident attorneys at Pratt Clay have compiled the following summary of information regarding House Bill 673. This “Hands-Free Law” established the following policies regarding cell phone use and driving:

  • A driver can’t have a cell phone in their hand (or on any other part of their body) while operating a motor vehicle.
  • It’s illegal to write, send, or read: e-mails, text messages, social media posts, or other “internet data content.”
  • A motorist can not send or read texts unless they are using a voice-based and hands-free communication device.
  • A driver can only use their phone to make or receive phone calls via earpiece, wireless headphones, speakerphone, or another hands-free method.
  • Earpieces and headsets can only be used for communication purposes, not music or entertainment.
  • A motorist can not watch videos unless it’s for navigational purposes.
  • It is illegal to record videos while driving, unless the driver is using a running dash cam.
  • Drivers can manipulate music streaming apps by hand, but only if they’re parked.

The Hands-Free Law does not apply to the following electronic devices:

  • Radio
  • Commercial two-way radio communication devices
  • Citizens band radio
  • Navigation devices
  • Remote diagnostics systems
  • Subscription-based emergency communication devices
  • Prescribed medical devices
  • Ham radio devices
  • In-vehicle security devices

There are also important exceptions to this law:

  • You can use your cell phone if you’re in a parked car (not paused at a stop sign or red light).
  • It is not illegal to use a cell phone if you’re reporting a traffic collision, medical emergency, criminal activity, fire, or dangerous road conditions.
  • First responders – including law enforcement officials, fire department employees, and EMS – can use their cell phones while performing their official duties.

The Safety of Hands-Free Devices

Hands-free and voice-command devices are generally marketed as an answer to the distracted driving epidemic. However, these products also provide ongoing distractions for drivers, a fact proven by the increasing number of traffic collisions reported each year. The reason these devices are equally – if not more – dangerous is because they allow drivers to stay distracted for longer periods of time. For example, drivers are now enjoying full-on verbal and speech-to-text conversations while driving across highways and congested cityscapes. When a driver’s attention is focused on a conversation, they can miss road hazards, construction signs, merging lanes, and other potentially dangerous hazards.

Schedule a Consultation with Nationally Renowned Trial Attorneys

Contact the car accident attorneys at Pratt Clay if you or someone you love has been injured by the choices of a distracted driver. Our experienced legal team has decades of trial experience and the resources to fully investigate your case. By collecting evidence and negotiating with the defendant’s insurance company, we can help you recover a settlement or verdict that alleviates your injury-related debts and safeguards your quality of life.

Call Pratt Clay, LLC at (404) 998-5258 to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.