2018-06-13 / Front Page

Hands free law effective July 1

DIANA ROYAL

As the number of deaths on Georgia roadways continues to rise each year, lawmakers are now requiring that citizens put down the electronic devices and pay attention to their driving.

On July 1, House Bill 673 will take effect, and even though the law promotes “hands-free” driving, some drivers are not completely clear on what they can and cannot do.

WHAT’S PROHIBITED

According to the bill, drivers may not hold or support, with any part of their bodies, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device. This would include cell phones, iPods, tablets, etc., with exceptions being an earpiece, headset or smart watch. Writing, sending or reading messages (text messages, instant messages, email, etc.) while holding the device will also be considered illegal, as will be watching or recording videos when maneuvering a vehicle.

WHAT’S ALLOWED

Drivers are permitted to talk and text if they are able to do so hands-free (via Bluetooth for example). GPS navigation and mapping systems are also allowed as are a number of different radios (AM/FM, CB radios and hybrids, commercial twoway radios, amateur or ham radios) and subscription-based emergency communication devices.

The bill recognizes situations in which handling an electronic device while driving may be required, such as to report an accident, emergency or crime, and states that devices may be handled when the vehicle’s operator is lawfully parked – which means being off the road or in a parking area, not at a stop sign or traffic light).

The first consequence for an offense is a $50 fine. Subsequent violations are $100 (second offense) and $150 (third) over a 24-month period.

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