A bill aimed at combatting distracted driving in Georgia passed in the state’s House of Representatives last month and now will go to the Senate for a vote. Sponsored by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), the state’s first hands-free driving bill makes it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, although using a GPS system and voice features on mobile phones are still allowed. The law does not apply if the mobile phone is used while the car is parked, when an emergency is being reported, or when first responders are working.
Representative Carson is chairman of a committee in the House charged with studying distracted driving. Traffic fatalities are rising, in large part because more and more drivers are distracted. Using hands-free technology may eliminate these distractions and this bill could go a long way towards preventing these injuries and deaths. The following actions are banned under the new legislation:
- Holding any electronic device
- Reaching for a device if it causes you to no longer be properly held by a seat belt
- Watching or recording a video other than a GPS navigation device
However, you will be allowed to do the following:
- Make phone calls using the speaker on your phone, and you can text using a voice-to-text dictation technology
- Use GPS systems
- Use radios
- Report a traffic accident or any emergency, crime, or dangerous road condition
- Use a phone when legally parked in a parking spot, not at a stoplight
“This bill is a positive step in lowering the rate of automobile accidents in Georgia. It will definitely save lives by getting rid of the cause of most accidents — when drivers are distracted and do not give their full focus to the road, it is very easy to act negligently and cause an accident, thereby harming yourself and/or others. This bill would bar drivers from touching a phone while driving a car; this includes texting, browsing the Internet, or watching videos.”
If a driver violates the law, they would be charged with a misdemeanor and face a fine. In addition, if this is a first offense, two points will be levied on their license; increased points will be added for repeat offenders.
House Bill 673, which passed in the House 151-20, can be read in full here.