Georgia’s New Distracted Driving Law: What’s Legal and What’s Not?
A new Georgia distracted driving law takes effect in July, and you need to know about it. Break the law, and you could be handed a hefty citation by a local law enforcement officer.
House Bill 673 makes it a requirement that anyone behind the wheel uses hands-free technology when using their cell phone or other electronic device. Unfortunately for drivers, what constitutes a hands-free device is a bit murky. Here’s more about the new law.
What’s Not Allowed
When it comes to getting behind the wheel of your car, the only thing you should be focused on is driving safely. Studies have shown that distracted driving is an enormous problem across the country and legislatures in a variety of states are aiming to reduce the risk.
If you are driving on any street or highway in Georgia, you may not:
1. Hold onto your phone with your hand. You will also need to put down your iPod or MP3 player, your tablet and your e-reader. The law stipulates that you also cannot support your device with any part of your body. For example, if you are propping your phone between your ear and shoulder, you are committing a violation.
2. Message while holding your phone. The law makes it illegal to send an email, instant message, text message or transmit any type of electronic data while holding your phone in your hand. This means that you can’t respond to that text while you are driving unless you are doing it with your hands-free system.
3. Watch a video. If you are driving, you can’t watch any type of video on your mobile device. You can, however, keep an eye on your map if you are navigating your vehicle. For example, you can’t watch cute kitten videos on Facebook when you are driving, but you can look at your map app if you aren’t sure where you are going.
4. Record a video. It is not permitted to record any type of video with your mobile device when you are driving.
What Is Allowed
The new law doesn’t make it illegal to do everything on your mobile device. There are still things that won’t earn you a ticket. If you are driving, you may:
1. Speak or text utilizing hands-free technology. For some, this may mean speaking directly to your phone while it is in its cradle or sitting on the seat next to you. For others, it means using your cars in-dash system coupled with Apple Carplay or Android Auto to listen to and respond to a text.
2. Use your map app or GPS system. It’s difficult to use your maps if you can’t hold onto your phone and look at it every now and again. That said, it is definitely safer to secure your phone in a place you can see it using a dash mount or to use your in-dash navigation system.
If you aren’t sure where you are going, take the time to plug your destination into your map app before you leave the house and take a look at your route so you have at least an idea of the general route you will take.
3. Wear and use your smart watch. It isn’t illegal, yet, to use your smart watch while you are driving. Try not to keep your eyes on it; it can be just as distracting as using your mobile device.
4. Use ear buds or an earpiece to talk on the phone. Your vehicle doesn’t have to be equipped with a Bluetooth system. If you can talk through your ear buds or have a Bluetooth earpiece, feel free to use it.
5. Use a radio or CB radio. You can also use a prescribed medical device or a remote vehicle diagnostic system.
6. Use your mobile device if you are involved in or reporting an emergency or crime.
7. Use your mobile device if you are lawfully parked. This means that you are off the road, not sitting at a stop light or sign.
8. Perform your job duties. Certain people are exempt from the new law. These include emergency medical personnel, police, utility employees and firefighters, among others. These people are not exempt from the law when they are not using their mobile device for the purposes of carrying out their job duties. For example, a police officer may use a mobile device while on duty, but not while in their personal vehicle on their day off.
Defenses for Charges Under the Distracted Driving Law
Any person who receives a traffic ticket in Atlanta has the right to fight their charges. When you are ticketed under the new distracted driving law, you have various options for mounting a defense. Some of the most common defenses include:
1. Dispute the officer’s evidence or opinion. Your attorney may choose to dispute the officer’s evidence. The officer may have been far away when they report having seen you on your mobile device. Your attorney may dispute the officer’s opinion that you weren’t legally parked. These defenses will be based on the unique circumstances of your case.
2. A justification of your actions. An officer may not have time to listen to the reasons why you were using your mobile device. They may not have been aware that you were experiencing an emergency, for example. If your actions were justified, your attorney can present this evidence in traffic court.
When You Need an Atlanta Traffic Ticket Attorney
In the days following your citation, you will want to hire a competent and experienced traffic ticket lawyer. Even if you feel that you were justifiably cited, an attorney can assist you in possibly reducing the consequences of your guilty plea.
One of the options offered to some drivers in the Atlanta area is the Pre-Trial Intervention Traffic Program (PTIT). Completing the program successfully means that you will have no points on your license, and will likely be subject to lesser fines. Your attorney can discuss this program at length with you and help you determine if you qualify.
If you have received a traffic ticket in Atlanta, we can defend you to help ensure that you are treated fairly. Reach out to our office by phone or online to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal rights and options.