On May 2, 2018, Governor Nathan Deal signed bill HB 673 making significant changes to the code sections that govern Georgia Drivers' use of cell phones and other wireless electronic devices. The most significant changes repeal two code sections that contained many exceptions to using devices hands free and instead places a blanket rule for everyone regardless of age and circumstances.
HB 673 makes the following changes to Georgia Law that go into effect on July 1, 2018 codified in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated at section 40-6-241. All drivers operating a motor vehicle on any road of this state are prohibited from holding or supporting devices such as cellphones, tablets, and GPS units, etc with any part of your body. No cradling your phone between your neck and head during a call or holding your phone to follow GPS instructions. You may still use your devices for GPS and also for calls so long as you don't have to press more than one button to make or receive a call. Another significant change is that drivers are no longer able to snap photos or videos while their vehicle is on and in any gear other than “Park.”
If you have a habit of posting photos and videos you took while driving to social media like Facebook or Instagram, your photos could become evidence of your violation of O.C.G.A. 40-6-241. If you happen to cause a collision on the roadway one day, your social media posts can be evidence of your lack of regard for the law and a pattern of poor driving habits.
The penalties for using your phone or another electronic device in violation of the new hands-free code section are tiered based on how many times you have been convicted under this statute. The first offense carries a penalty of 1 point on your license and a fine of $50.00. A second offense under the same code section will carry a penalty of 2 points and a fine of $100.00. Any third or subsequent offenses will carry a penalty of 3 points and a fine that will range from $150.00 to $1,000.00. The state of Georgia authorizes prosecutors to demand a fine amount up to $1,000.00 for misdemeanors. If you have multiple convictions under the new statute, your penalties could even include a few days in jail.
In anticipation of this new law, I bought a few gadgets to see if I could drive, answer calls, and listen to music without my phone falling into some dark corner of my floorboard. I quickly discovered that suction cups on my windshield still do not hold up under the beautiful Georgia summer sun and finally settled on a gadget that secures itself to one of my AC vents, and holds onto my phone via a powerful magnet. A quick internet search brings up many different devices that will work with most cellphones on the market today.
Whatever gadget works for you, make sure to have tested your setup prior to July 1, 2018 when this new law goes into effect. If you would like more safety tips, please check out our prior article on “Put it Down Before it Kills You” which contains a pre-driving safety checklist.