There are thousands of traffic accidents on the roads of Georgia each year. Unfortunately, many of them are caused by drivers using a wireless telecommunications device. In 2018, Georgia introduced laws that address distracted driving to encourage the safe operation of motor vehicles.
These Georgia laws are complicated, but understanding how they apply to different wireless telecommunication devices is essential for drivers who want to use voice communication and other devices while operating a motor vehicle.
Read on to learn about Georgia’s distracted driving laws from the team at Georgia Auto Law.
Distracted Driving Defined
Driving while distracted is against the law in Georgia.
According to Georgia State laws, anything that causes drivers to stop attending to the road can be classified as “distracting.” But Georgia’s laws deal specifically with distractions caused when drivers use a cell phone or another wireless telecommunications device.
Georgia’s Restrictions on Texting and the Use of Electronic Devices
It is against the law for Georgia drivers to manually compose, send, or read text-based communication on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device. The restrictions apply to the vehicle operator and cover emails, text messages, and other types of Internet data.
This law covers several devices, including the following:
- A cellular telephone
- A tablet
- A laptop
- A text messaging device
- A global positioning system receiver (GPS)
- A personal digital assistant (PDA)
- Any other wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device
Additionally prohibited conduct is watching, creating, or broadcasting video content while driving.
If the wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device is hands-free, in other words, if it uses voice-based communication via the vehicle’s Bluetooth system, it remains legal. For example, if an instant message on a cell phone is received audibly, it conforms to the law.
Also legal is operating a device used for global positioning system purposes using vocal commands.
If recordings or broadcasts from electronic devices are continuous and automatic, they do not break the law. For instance, music streaming apps can be legally used, but only hands-free, via the vehicle’s Bluetooth system.
Georgia’s distracted driving laws do not cover several devices. These include a radio device, a citizens band radio, a ham radio device, in-vehicle security, and the car’s remote diagnostics system.
Cell Phone Rules
Georgia allows drivers to talk on a portable telephone, providing they aren’t touching it with their bodies. So, having a wireless telecommunications device on the driver’s lap is just as illegal as holding it.
However, voice-based communication with a headphone device remains legal, provided the driver doesn’t make contact with the phone during the call.
The Rules for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers
The distracted driver regulations in Georgia apply to anyone operating a motor vehicle, including commercial drivers, who have the following additional restrictions:
- They may not use more than one button press to begin or end a call on a wireless device.
- They must not reach for a stand-alone or wireless communication device in a way that causes them to leave their seated driving position or no longer be properly restrained by a safety belt.
Penalties for Distracted Driving
In Georgia, breaking distracted driving laws is a misdemeanor. As with other driving offenses, the severity of the penalty depends on the driver’s record. In the case of distracted driving, the court considers the driver’s history for the past two years.
Fines for first offenses are capped at $50 and one demerit point. However, the court can dismiss the charges for first offenders who prove their telecommunications device or stand-alone device was hands-free.
A conviction on a second distracted driving charge within 24 months earns the driver two demerit points and a fine of up to $100.
A Third or Subsequent Conviction
A third conviction brings three demerit points and a fine of as much as $150.
Additional Penalties for Commercial Drivers
Commercial drivers convicted of distracted driving can face added fines of up to $2,750.
Exceptions To Distracted Driving Violations
Exceptions to Georgia’s laws on distracted driving are as follows:
- Using the electronic device to report an urgent situation such as a traffic accident, hazardous road conditions, a utility emergency, a crime in progress, or a medical emergency
- A public worker using the stand-alone electronic device while performing their official duties
- First responders, such as firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, police officers, and other emergency personnel
- A utility service provider acting in response to an outage
It is important to note that Georgia’s distracted driving laws apply only to the driver of the vehicle and only while it is in operation. So, for example, an off-duty utility services provider who pulls off the road to receive a call or send a message is not breaking the distracted driving law.
Any additional charges the distracted driver might face depends on the circumstances. A distraction could cause dangerous or erratic driving, which might lead to a reckless driving charge. If distracted driving causes a death, the driver could be charged with vehicular homicide.
Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws
Enforcement of distracted driving law can be primary or secondary, as explained below.
- Primary: This is when the law enforcement officer pulls over to investigate further a driver suspected of distracted driving. The driver need not have broken other laws or be driving erratically to be charged with illegally using wireless telecommunications devices or their functional equivalent, contrary to Georgia law.
- Secondary: This is where the driver has broken another law, and the police officer cites them for the distracted driving that contributed to it.
If you are involved in a distracted driving case, call the attorneys at Georgia Auto Law. Our legal professionals deal only with auto law and understand the complexities of Georgia’s recent distracted driving statutes. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to answer your questions.
To find out more about our services, call 404-662-4949 today.