Texting and driving kills, and that is exactly why Georgia government officials have recently voted to change the distracted driving laws in the state. More than 1,500 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Georgia in 2016, and of those, an estimated 34% were due to distracted driving.
Many motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving are likely the result of cell phone use, according to the experts. They say that from 2014 to 2016, the death toll from distracted driving jumped by a third, the fifth highest increase in the country and more than twice the national average. Lawmakers have decided to make a change based on those statistics.
The recent changes passed by the House and Senate could go into effect as early as July of this year if Governor Nathan Deal supports the new laws, which experts believe is likely.
What Does the New Distracted Driving Law Prohibit?
While it is already illegal to physically text and email while driving a vehicle in the state, the new law adds further restrictions. It will now be much tougher to use your phone at all unless you have hands-free capabilities. The law also prohibits the following:
- Holding or supporting a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device, such as an iPod, with any part of the body.
- Writing, sending, or reading any text-based communication, including text message, instant message, email, or internet data while holding your device.
- Watching a video or movie other than watching data related to the navigation of your device, i.e. GPS.
- Recording video.
What Is Acceptable Under the New Law?
Electronic devices will not be completely off limits if used appropriately while behind the wheel. The following will be allowed under the new law:
- Speaking or texting while using hands-free technology.
- Using a GPS system or mapping app.
- Wearing and using a smart watch.
- Using an earpiece to talk on the phone.
- Using radios, CB radios, commercial two-way radios, subscription-based emergency communication devices, prescribed medical devices, amateur or ham radios, and in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostic systems.
There are also certain circumstances in which you can still handle an electronic device. These include reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, crime, delinquent act, or hazardous road condition. You can also use your devices if you are lawfully parked (not at a stoplight). Lawfully means off or beside the road in an area open to parking.
Certain people are also exempt from the hands-free requirement if they are performing duties relating to their jobs. These people include police, firemen, emergency medical personnel, ambulance drivers, other first responders, and utility employees or contractors responding to a utility emergency.
The Penalties of Distracted Driving
The law originally called for stiffer penalties, but eventually were whittled down a bit during legislative debate. Under House Bill 673, first time offenders will receive a $50 fine and one point to their drivers’ license. Second time offenders will pay $100 and receive two points against their drivers’ license. Third time offenders will pay $150 and receive three points against their drivers’ license.
Why You Might Need an Attorney
Traffic laws vary drastically among states and are constantly changing. Therefore, it is important to consult with an attorney to determine your rights if you get a distracted driving charge. While some people believe entering a no-contest plea to a traffic ticket is the best choice, it rarely is. A no-contest plea will not prevent the ticket from appearing on your driving history. Paying the fine does not make the citation go away, either. An experienced, knowledgeable attorney like those at Lankford & Moore Law can help you understand your rights and reach the best possible outcome when you have received a distracted driving citation.