Driving? Put down your phone. It's the law.

By Julie Jordan
Published May 4, 2018

The Hands-Free Georgia Act recently signed by Governor Nathan Deal is set to become law July 1. At that time, motorists cannot hold their phones while driving to read or text. Video recording and broadcast video is also prohibited. The law allows use of Bluetooth devices so drivers can answer calls or use GPS navigation. Enforcement of the law also begins July 1.

Use of a phone during driving is a form of distracted driving. Each day in the U.S. approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Distracted driving is when drivers divert their attention from driving to focus on something else,” said Elizabeth Head, M.P.H., deputy director of Injury Prevention at the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Types of distractions include:

  1. Visual, or taking your eyes off the road.
  2. Manual, or taking a hand off the wheel.
  3. Cognitive, or thinking about something other than the driving task.

“Phone use can result in all three forms of distraction,” said Head.

Using a phone is the second most commonly-reported form of distracted driving. (Being “lost in thought” is number one.)

There are many benefits to driving without distraction, especially due to phones. Anyone who has ever been injured in an auto accident, or grieved the loss of a loved one due to an auto accident, knows the potential cost of not giving the road your attention.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 14 percent of all fatal distraction-affected crashes involved phone use, and a total of 486 people died in fatal crashes that involved phone-related activities as distractions.

Distraction occurs not just because of phones, but because of a driver’s state of mind which allows for distraction. The more you do, like use your phone, the less your brain can focus on driving. As your attention goes down, the chances for a crash go up.  

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia encourages individuals to take a pledge to avoid doing certain activities while driving. Take the pledge here.

Penalties for violators of the Hands-Free Georgia Act are $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second and three or more violations will result in fines of $150. First-time offenders may have their fee waived by purchasing a Bluetooth device and providing proof of the purchase.

Georgia is the 16th state to ban motorists from holding phones and other mobile devices while driving.