Georgia

Hands-Free Georgia Act allows drivers one chance to drop distracted driving citations

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - We've all heard it helps to be prepared. Georgia drivers should start now getting used to putting away distractions when on the roadways.

Although Georgia has had laws on the books against texting and using mobile devices while driving for about eight years, they will soon be much easier to enforce once the Hands-Free Georgia Act takes effect July 1.

The new law limits drivers from even holding a phone, GPS, tablet, or any electronic device while behind the wheel. Supporting one on your shoulder or in your lap is also a no-go.

"Up until now, police were stopping distracted drivers, but if a person were to say they were making a phone call, that would be legal," explains Robert Hydrick, Communications Manager for the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety. "This new law is going to be a big change, a major behavioral adjustment, and people should start getting into the habit of thinking hands-free now."

Columbus Police Department Motor Squad Sargent Chris Anderson tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton he'll be happy if he sees even a slight decrease in the dangerous distractions on Fountain City streets.

"To be honest with you, you don't even have to look for a distracted driver anymore. You can just ride down the road and see it all day long," Sgt. Anderson says. "I've seen people texting and almost hitting pedestrians at stop lights, I've seen people driving with their knees while holding a tablet over the steering wheel reading something. I have actually seen someone riding down the road with a full newspaper open, over the top of their steering wheel, reading the newspaper as they're driving down the roadway."

He adds the new law makes police officer's jobs much easier when reporting distracted drivers.

"This new law and this change makes it clear for us as police how we can enforce the law. If we even see a device in your hand, you are in violation of the new law, and you will get a citation for that," he says.

Once you get your citation, you will have to appear in traffic court, but if you bring a few things with you on your first offense, you could walk away without any penalties.

"You can go to the court and show the court that you have purchased a device, such as a headset, a Bluetooth device, something that allows you to attach your phone to your dash, anything that can prove you've gone hands free. If you present that evidence to the court and the court accepts that evidence, the charge will be dropped," Hydrick says.

The allowance can only be used once and drivers will have to sign an affidavit asserting they have never used the loophole before and will not again.

Click here for a detailed list of the Hands-Free Georgia Act's limitations and penalties.


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