House Bill 673, also known as the “Hands-Free Law,” was passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year, and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal. It went into effect on the first of this month, but there’s still plenty of confusion out there. In fact, I got a Facebook message from a friend who was pulled over for rejecting a call on her phone while it was mounted, and the cop told her that was illegal. She was given a warning, but still made it a point to reach out to me to see who was right. Turns out, even some cops out there aren’t up to speed. Let’s change that. The following information comes directly from the Department of Driver Services (dds.georgia.gov). Feel free to rip this from the pages of this newsmag, or head to their site to print the official version yourself.
So what’s now illegal?
• A driver cannot have a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone. Drivers can only use their phones to make or receive phone calls by using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphones, a phone that is connected to the vehicle, or an electronic watch.
• Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes — not for listening to music or other entertainment.
• A driver may not send or read any text-based communication unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts messages to written text, or is being used for navigation or GPS.
• A driver may not write, send, or read any text messages, emails, social media, or internet-data content.
• A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
• A driver may not record a video, but continuously running dash cams are allowed.
• Music-streaming apps can be used provided the driver activates and programs them when they are parked. Drivers cannot touch their phones to do anything to their music apps when they are on the road. Music-streaming apps that include video are not allowed. Drivers can listen to and program music-streaming apps that are connected to and controlled through their vehicle’s sound system.
When can I use my phone while I’m driving?
• When you’re using GPS navigation devices.
• When you’re reporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity, or hazardous road conditions.
• When an employee or contractor of a utility service provider is acting within the scope of their employment while responding to a utility emergency.
• When a first responder (law enforcement, fire, EMS) is performing their official duties.
NOTE: For civilians, these actions must be while you’re in a lawfully parked vehicle, which does not include times when you are stopped for traffic signals and stop signs on the public roadway.
What if my work involves commuting commercially?
• Commercial motor vehicle operators can only use one button to begin or end a phone call.
• The driver cannot reach for a wireless telecommunications. device or stand-alone electronic device when it requires the driver to move from his/her seat via an unlocked seatbelt.
• School bus drivers cannot use a wireless telecommunication device or two-way radio while loading or unloading passengers. The driver can only use a wireless telecommunication device while the bus is in motion.
A Quick FAQ:
Can I still talk on my phone while driving?
Yes, as long as it is done hands-free. Drivers are able to use their phone’s speakerphone, Bluetooth technology, an earpiece, a headphone, or other device to allow them to communicate on a hands-free basis.
Can I touch my cellphone to dial a number or receive or end a call?
Yes. The law would simply prohibit drivers from holding or supporting the phone.
Am I be required to purchase a hands-free accessory, such as a mount or bracket?
No. The proposed law simply states that a driver cannot hold or support a mobile phone. A phone can be left on a vehicle’s console, a front seat, etc. However, for the safety of all Georgians, state and local law enforcement recommend the purchase and use of a hands-free device if using a mobile phone while driving.
My vehicle does not have Bluetooth technology/capability. How can I comply with the law?
Many online retailers offer a Bluetooth adapter for vehicles without Bluetooth or similar technology built into the vehicle. These adapters can be found at local retailers or online by searching for “Bluetooth hands-free car kit” online.
Can I listen to music stored on my mobile phone, thus not requiring an internet connection?
Yes, as long as you are not holding or supporting your phone.
Can I talk to someone via video telephone apps, such as FaceTime or Skype, if doing so hands-free?
No. The proposed hands-free driving law states that a driver shall not “record or broadcast a video” on any mobile phones, iPads, computers, etc. while operating a vehicle.
What are the fines/penalties?
First conviction: $50 and one point on your license.
Second conviction: $100 and two points on your license.
Third and subsequent convictions: $150 and three points on your license.