As Of July 1, 2018, It Is Illegal To Hold A Cell Phone In Use While Driving
On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 673, which makes it illegal to physically hold a wireless electronic device while driving, among other things that come under the category of “distracted driving.” The bill was inspired by a dramatic increase in automobile fatalities caused by distracted driving, but mostly by one tragic accident in particular. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2018.
In the early morning hours of April 22, 2015, a truck driver failed to stop and crashed into six other cars on I-16 near Savannah. Five nursing students from Georgia Southern University were killed in the accident. The truck driver plead guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide and other charges. The cause of the accident was ruled to be distracted driving. The truck driver was looking at his mobile phone, and failed to see that traffic ahead of him had stopped.
Fifteen states have now outlawed the use of a cell phone while driving. Georgia’s new law specifically bans holding the phone in one’s hand while one is talking on the phone. A driver can still dial the phone and talk on a hands-free device such as a bluetooth headset or speakerphone. A driver can even text while driving, so long as they use voice to text instead of handling the phone to type the text message.
These new laws are aimed at curbing distractions from driving, which are primarily considered to be caused by the ubiquitous use of mobile phones. However, other sources make it clear that just talking on a phone – hands free or not – makes the driver more distracted than if the driver has a blood alcohol level at the legal limit of .08. In fact, one recent study proved that talking hands free while driving was more dangerous than talking while holding the phone. Why is that? Because most people are used to holding a phone up to their ear while talking, whereas talking hands free requires more concentration.
Below is a list of what actions are prohibited under the new law.
- Writing, sending or reading any text-based communication, including a text message, instant message, e-mail or internet data while holding your device.
- Reaching for a device if it means you are no longer in a seated, driving position or properly restrained by a seatbelt.
- Watching a video or movie other than watching data related to the navigation of your vehicle (i.e., your mapping app or GPS screen).
- Recording a video.
After July 1st law enforcement can pull you over if they see you holding your phone while you are driving. Penalties for violating the law start at $50 for the first offense, with points on your driver’s license.