Tags

Related Posts

Share This

Cell Phone Driving FAQ

A lot of information is circulating about Georgia’s new distracted driving law, but it seems much of it is based on other reports.  The best way to discover what is in the law (and what is not) is to read the text of the bill – Georgia House Bill 673 (the relevant parts are also down below)  Which is what we have done.  And while we are not lawyers, we can read a fairly simple piece of legislation.  With that in mind, here are the questions we wanted answered:

Can I put my phone on my leg while driving?

The law is pretty clear – at no time can a driver “Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body” the phone.  So sitting it on your leg, or tucking it under your chin or holding it in your hand are clearly out at all times.

Can I hold my phone while at a red light or stopped in traffic?

Nope.  Again, to quote the law – the only time you can hold the device is “While in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked.”  You can’t lawfully park on the road.

What about my Apple Watch?

Specifically excluded.  You must use a hands free device to make and receive calls and texts, and the law specifically allows “the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication.”

So I can send and receive texts if I use Siri?

Yes.  Many iPhone users don’t realize that if you have your phone in a mount and hear a text message come in, you can say “Hey Siri – read my text messages.”  Siri will then read the unread messages, pausing after each one to ask you if you want to reply.

If my phone is in a holder, can I watch a movie?

Absolutely not.  The only ‘movie’ type display that is allowed is a GPS screen.

Can I use my phone to record video while I drive?

Nope.

Can I use a video camera to record a video while I drive?

Nope.

Can I use a dash-cam to record a video while I drive?

Yes.

Can I use my digital voice recorder to record memos and such while I drive?

It looks like the answer is ‘no’ unless it is capable of hands free operation.

Are cell phones the only devices covered in the law?

No.  There are limitations also placed on the use of ‘Stand-alone electronic device’ which it defines as “a device other than a wireless telecommunications device which stores audio or video.”  It also limits the operation of “a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver, or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data.”  But elsewhere GPS units are excluded, so this is a little unclear.

How do I enter my destination in my phone’s GPS if I can’t type on the phone?

Again, not a lawyer, but it appears that you CAN type on the phone to enter an address.  When the law says that you can’t use the phone to send texts or email (unless hands free) it says says specifically that the prohibition shall not apply to “The use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes.”  To be safe, if possible, enter the address before you leave your driveway.

If I drop it, can I pick my phone up off the floor?

You may have read that this was not allowed, but it appears that this only applies to someone operating a commercial vehicle.  Check the law yourself (below).

If my phone is in a holder, can I touch the screen?

This will probably be clarified later, but it appears that the answer is “it depends.”  While you clearly can’t use the phone to “Write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail” (unless using a hand’s free option) it doesn’t say that you can’t touch the phone for other purposes as long as you are not holding it or supporting it with your body.  So if you want to skip to the next song, for instance, it looks like that may be allowed.

What if my phone locks up and I need to enter the passcode to access the GPS?

Again, it looks like this is OK.  You are not sending or receiving a text message or email – you are simply accessing the GPS feature, which is allowed.  But I would be careful – they may classify this as distracted driving.

Can I use a built in GPS if my car has one, even if I have to touch it?

Yes – these are specifically excluded in the bill.

What is the penalty?

A first conviction for using a mobile phone while driving carries a fine of $50 and one point on the driver’s license. The second conviction would cost $100 and add two points to the license. The third and subsequent convictions would have a fine of $150 and add three points to the license.

Is there a way out of the penalty if I get caught using my phone illegally?

YES – if it is your first time and you bring a receipt showing you purchased a hands-free device to court you will not have to pay the $50 fine.  But this only works once.

Why did we need another law when there is already a law against distracted driving in Georgia?

Probably to clarify the existing law, which simply reads “A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle”  (O.C.G.A. 40-6-241).  Also legislators like to make more laws.

Why are “radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid” and ham radios excluded?

While I sometimes get a stern letter from a Representative when I say this, when some specific industry is mentioned in a law it is usually because they have strong lobbying, donate big money, or a Representative is a member of such a group.  I would not be surprised if an author, sponsor or powerful legislator is a ham radio operator.  But that is only speculation on my part…

NOTE: Gwinnett County has announced that they will only give warnings and a handout during the month of July.  Other areas are not giving a grace period, so watch out wherever you go.


SECTION 4.

Said title is further amended by revising Code Section 40-6-241, relating to driver to exercise due care and proper use of radios and mobile telephones allowed, as follows:

40-6-241.

(a) As used in this Code section, the term:

(1) ‘Stand-alone electronic device’ means a device other than a wireless telecommunications device which stores audio or video data files to be retrieved on demand by a user.

(2) ‘Utility services’ means and includes electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, cable, telephone, or telecommunications services or the repair, location, relocation, improvement, or maintenance of utility poles, transmission structures, pipes, wires, fibers, cables, easements, rights of way, or associated infrastructure.

(3) ‘Wireless telecommunications device’ means a cellular telephone, a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver, or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data. Such term shall not include a radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription based emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system.

(b) A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle, provided that, except as prohibited by Code Sections 40-6-241.1 and 40-6-241.2, the proper use of a radio, citizens band radio, mobile telephone, or amateur or ham radio shall not be a violation of this Code section.

(c) While operating a motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:

(1) Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body a:

(A) Wireless telecommunications device, provided that such exclusion shall not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication; or

(B) Stand-alone electronic device;

(2) Write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided, however, that such prohibition shall not apply to:

(A) A voice based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form; or

(B) The use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes;

(3) Watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle; or (4) Record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided that such prohibition shall not apply to electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle.

(d) While operating a commercial motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:

(1) Use more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or

(2) Reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be:

(A) In a seated driving position; or

(B) Properly restrained by a safety belt.

(e) Each violation of this Code section shall constitute a separate offense.

(f) (1) Except as provided for in paragraph (2) of this subsection, any person convicted of violating this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor which shall be punished as follows:

(A) For a first conviction with no conviction of and no plea of nolo contendere accepted to a charge of violating this Code section within the previous 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $50.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof;

(B) For a second conviction within a 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $100.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof ; or

(C) For a third or subsequent conviction within a 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $150.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof.

(2) Any person appearing before a court for a first charge of violating paragraph (1) of subsection (c) of this Code section who produces in court a device or proof of purchase of such device that would allow such person to comply with such paragraph in the future shall not be guilty of such offense. The court shall require the person to affirm that they have not previously utilized the privilege under this paragraph. (g) Subsections (c) and (d) of this Code section shall not apply when the prohibited conduct occurred:

(1) While reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, an actual or potential criminal or delinquent act, or road condition which causes an immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard;

(2) By an employee or contractor of a utility services provider acting within the scope of his or her employment while responding to a utility emergency;

(3) By a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties; or (4) While in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked.