Hands Off The Cell Phone

November 20, 2018

The law regarding cell phone usage while driving in Georgia is written such that you can be fined if you are touching the phone while talking with any part of your body while driving, or even paused at a red light. You must be parked to use the phone. Even though, according to a 2006 study you are 23.2 times more likely to crash while text messaging (see: FMCSA-RRR-09-042.pdf), the law in practice may be targeted more at people texting while driving than pushing play on streaming music, but the “most legal” way is to connect it to a hands-free system on your car.

Georgia House Bill 673 is now the law (see: HB 673 ).

Legal: speaking or texting using hands-free system such as speech to text – though this must be accomplished without touching your phone such as an in-dash system. Using your map or GPS app to navigate. Using a CB or ordinary radio. Emergency use such as reporting an accident or fire. Listening to music if it is controlled by radio or some dash-based device, or you start playing before you start driving.

Illegal: reaching for a device that requires you to get out of your seat or seatbelt. Messaging, writing or reading while holding your device though services like Alexa or Siri that convert text to speech are OK. Watching a video. Recording a video though continuously running dashcams are exempt.

The fine for using a cell phone while driving in Georgia are (see: hands-free-law ):

  • First conviction: $50, one point on a license;
  • Second conviction: $100, two points on a license;
  • Third and subsequent convictions: $150, three points on a license.
  • The fines for a 2nd or 3rd offense only apply when date of a 2nd or 3rd conviction takes place within 24 months of the date of the first conviction. First time offenders can have the charge dropped by showing the court they have obtained a device that allows them to talk on a phone with hands-free technology or devices.

Drivers receiving 15 points or more in penalties within a 2-year period, may have their driver’s license suspended.

Beyond just a fine, using a cell phone while driving can be seen at as evidence of Distracted Driving. Cell phone activity around the time of the accident can be obtained from the carrier to show call times and durations, text message timestamps and GPS communications in use. Under Georgia law OCGA 40-6-241, proper use of a cell phone is legal, and therefore, is not enough to impose punitive damages. Yet. It remains to be seen our insurance carriers will respond over time.

However, in accidents involving a large truck, cell phone use or texting violates Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers have an added requirement to avoid distraction. (see: www.fmcsa.dot.gov) and texting while driving is illegal based on a 2009 study (see: driver-distraction-commercial-vehicle-operations ). Violations of the FMCSR can provide the basis for an award of attorney fees and expenses for litigation.

McGahren Law recommends that you consider a “Hands Free” cell phone device as a gift for a loved-one or friend to put in their car. Make sure it secures the cell phone in place. To really stay legal and use phone services, a dash-based display that integrates with the phone providing one-touch controls is ideal. If you can’t make it hands free, make a habit of parking.

DISCLAIMER: The information herein is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For any legal matters, we urge you to take the advice of an attorney familiar with your case.