It may still be too early to determine whether the 2018 Georgia law against using or even touching your cell phone while driving has had a measurable impact on Georgia car accidents.
There seems to be broad acknowledgement that the massive jump in car crash deaths and injuries between 2014 and 2016 – a roughly 30 percent increase – was attributable to distracted driving. National Safety Council data suggested Georgia had the fifth highest rate of distracted driving growth in the nation during that period, and a car crash fatality rate about double the average in the United States.
What Were the Rules of House Bill 673: the Hands-Free Law?
Drivers aren’t allowed to have their hand on a phone while driving or use any part of their body to support a phone (like holding a phone to their ear with their shoulder).
There is a loophole if your vehicle is new enough or you have the right cell phone peripherals. You can still make calls if:
- You are using a speaker phone, earpiece or wireless headphone
- The phone is connected to and can be answered through the vehicle
- You have a smart watch on which you can answer calls
You’re also not allowed to read or send texts unless you’re using some kind of voice-to-text feature that doesn’t require you touch your phone.
The law also imposes a moratorium on watching or recording video (that means no making TikToks while driving) unless the recording device is some kind of continuously running dash cams.
You can still use music apps, but you aren’t allowed to make adjustments while you’re on the road. Like with making calls, there’s an exception if your music app is connected to your vehicle and you can control them through the vehicle’s console.
You’re still allowed to use traditional radio and communication devices, like:
- Your vehicle’s radio
- Citizen band radios
- Commercial two-way radios (or equivalent)
- Emergency communication devices
- Medical devices
- Ham radio devices
- In-vehicle security, navigation or remote diagnostics
There are also some emergency and job-related exceptions:
- There’s an emergency (car crash, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity, etc.)
- You’re on the job as a contractor or utility driver and your job duties include using your cell phone to respond to emergency situations
- First responders are allowed to use them in the scope of their job duties
- If you’re parked (stopping at traffic lights and stop signs doesn’t count as parking
Hands Free Law Enforcement
Starting on July 1, 2018, Georgia officers were technically allowed to cite drivers for touching their phones. Whether they let violators off with a warning about the new law or cited them was up to the officer’s discretion. Unlike with some laws, there was no 90-day grace period. The Hands-Free Law went into effect on day one.
Does Georgia’s Hands-Free Law Work?
Advocates have suggested that states that have passed similar types of hands-free legislation experience a 16 percent drop in traffic fatalities within two years of the law being passed.
In July 2019 the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety announced that law enforcement had issued 24,682 citations for violating the law. By June 28, 2020 there had been 49,535 citations issued under the law.
For the first half of 2019 – January 1 through June 30 – there were 697 traffic fatalities. For that same period in 2018 there were 720 traffic fatalities – so there was a very slight post-law drop.
In December 2018 the state only had 994 fatalities for the year. In December 2019 that number had gone up significantly to 1,491. In December 2020, despite the pandemic, Georgia had nearly 1,600 traffic fatalities.
There’s been a lot of debate about why the nation’s roads got more dangerous during the pandemic, so judging the hands-free law’s performance based on Georgia’s 2020 might not be fair.
What is for sure is that, as of yet, there’s been no real appreciable drop in Georgia accident deaths since the law passed.
Have You Been Injured by a Distracted Driver in Atlanta?
Law enforcement are on the lookout for people using their phones while driving, but police aren’t always around, and some people are good at hiding distracting behavior. People in Georgia are still getting into car accidents caused by distracted drivers, and many of those accidents are resulting in serious injuries or deaths.
If you were injured by another driver’s negligence, you deserve to be compensated for your medical costs, pain and suffering and lost wages. The auto accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident personal injury lawyers at the Dressie Law Firm are ready to fight for you.
Call us at 770-756-6333 for your free case evaluation.