Effective July 1, 2018, Georgia became the sixteenth state in the nation to adopt a hands-free law for cell phone use while driving. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c) now provides that:
“(c) While operating a motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:
(1) Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body a:
(A) Wireless telecommunications device, provided that such exclusion shall not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication; or
(B) Stand-alone electronic device;
(2) 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; provided, however, that such prohibition shall not apply to:
(A) A voice based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form; or
(B) The use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes.”
In our area, thousands of Tennessee drivers cross back and forth between Tennessee and Georgia each day, often several times per day. Everyone must comply with the new law. While driving a motor vehicle in Georgia, do not hold your smartphone or cell phone, and do not support such a device with other parts of your body, such as resting it on your leg or in your lap. You can talk using a hands-free device, however.
Using a phone while “lawfully parked” is okay, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(g)(4).
Texting continues to be prohibited, including writing, reading or sending any “text based communication”, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(2).
Watching videos or movies, or recording or broadcasting video from wireless telecommunications devices is also prohibited, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(3) and (4).
“Use of such device for navigation . . . or for global positioning system purposes” and “watching data related to the navigation” of the vehicle is okay, however, as spelled out by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(2)(B) and (3). It is not entirely clear whether holding a smartphone for navigation purposes is acceptable or not, but the basic principle of the new law is stated in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(b):
“A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.”
In a signing ceremony earlier this year in at Georgia Southern University, Governor Deal mentioned one of many tragic events that motivated passage of the new law, House Bill 673: “Here at the home of Georgia Southern, I think is an appropriate place to sign this legislation,” he said, with pictures of five Georgia Southern nursing students beside him who died because of distracted driving.