July 1st marks the first day that Georgia’s new hands-free law, also known as House Bill 673, goes into effect. Although you may have heard about this new law in passing or on the news, drivers everywhere have been scrambling to figure out what they can or cannot do under this new legislation. This law is referred to as “hands-free”, but what exactly does that entail?
The biggest misconception about this new bill is that Georgia drivers won’t be allowed to use their cellphones at all, but that isn’t exactly true. The most significant change Georgia is experiencing is that drivers are no longer allowed to hold their phones. Below you can find what is explicitly prohibited under the hands-free law.
Under House Bill 673, an individual CANNOT…
- Hold or support, with any part of the body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device (Ex: an iPod)
- Write, send, or read any text-based communication (Ex: text messages, instant messages, e-mails, or internet data) while holding your device
- Reach for a device if you are no longer in a seated, driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt
- Watch a video or movie other than navigation (i.e., a mapping app or GPS screen)
- Record a video
- Use more than one button to answer/use a phone
While this list of what is not allowed under the new Georgia law seems pretty extensive, Georgia drivers still possess some freedom in using their cellphones on the road. What is allowed under the hands-free law can be found below.
Under House Bill 673, an individual CAN…
- Speak or text using hands-free technology
- Use a GPS system or mapping app (Ex: Google or Apple Maps, Waze, etc.)
- Use radios, CB radios, CB radio hybrids, commercial two-way radios, subscription based emergency communication devices, prescribed medical devices, amateur or ham radios and “in-vehicle security, navigation or remote diagnostics” systems
- Use their cellphone to report a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, crime or delinquent act or a hazardous road condition
- Use their hands while lawfully parked (NOT at a stoplight– “lawfully” means off or beside the road in an area open to parking)
Some individuals are exempt from the hands-free requirement such as police officers or firefighters and other first responders/utility employees. Otherwise, all other Georgia drivers can expect to be pulled over for violating these conditions. While Georgia officers will most likely issue a great number of warnings and have lots of conversations with drivers about hands-free driving throughout early summer, particular interactions will be left up to individual officers. While this new law may seem inconvenient to some, similar systems in place in other states have reduced traffic deaths by at least 16%. To put that in perspective, the GDOT says that 1,549 people died on Georgia’s roads in 2017 and 16% of those deaths marks 248 lives. Make sure you’re doing your part in order to be a safe driver on Georgia roads and educate yourself about this new legislation prior to July 1st!
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Cansino Blanchette Law Firm or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.