On May 2, 2018, Governor Deal signed the Hands-Free Georgia Act into law. The new law makes holding cell phones, sending or reading a written communication, and watching or taking videos while driving illegal. For operators of commercial vehicles, there are additional restrictions. The law makes it illegal for commercial motor vehicle operators to reach for a device in a way that requires them to no longer be seated in a driving position or properly restrained. The fines for these offenses are low but with each violation, your driving record will be affected. First-time violations will have one point added to your license and be fined $50; second-time violations will add two points and be fined $100; a third or any subsequent violations will add three points and be fined $150. In Georgia, a driver who gets 15 points in a 24-month period will have their license suspended. However, for first-time violators of the Hands-Free Law, if you go to court and show a hands-free device or proof of purchase of a hands-free device, the trial court is required to find the driver not guilty of the charges. This is a one-time only use privilege. While debated by lawmakers, under the new law you will still be able to: talk or text using a hands-free device, wear a smartwatch, use a GPS or mapping app, and use a radio to communicate.
A FEW EXEMPTIONS
Those excluded from the law include police officers, firefighters, emergency personnel, or utility employees responding to a utility emergency. Additionally, drivers are exempted under specific circumstances. If you are experiencing an emergency or are reporting an emergency the law permits drivers to use a cell phone. Emergencies, in this case, are classified as reporting an accident, medical emergency, fire, crime, or a hazardous road condition to authorities. If you are in a motor vehicle that is lawfully parked, you would also be exempt from the new law.