Are Navigation Devices and Dash Cams Included in Georgia’s ‘Hands-Free’ Law?

Jul 18, 2018

Drivers can no longer hold their cell phones while driving in Georgia. The Hands-Free Law enacted by Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature took effect July 1.

To get Georgia citizens and businesses up to speed on the law, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety offers the following information and FAQs:

What’s Allowed and Not Allowed?

  • 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 headphone, or if the phone is connected to the vehicle or an electronic watch.
  • GPS navigation devices are allowed to be operated.
  • A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
  • A driver may not send or read any text-based communication unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS
  • A driver may not record a video (continuously running dash cams are exempt)
  • 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.  Drivers can listen to and program music streaming apps that are connected to and controlled through their vehicle’s radio.
  • Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes and not for listening to music or other entertainment.
  • A driver may not write, send or read any text messages, e-mails, social media or internet data content
  • The following devices are still legal to be used by a driver in Georgia while on the road: 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.

Exemptions to the Law

  • Reporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity or hazardous road conditions.
  • An employee or contractor of an utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment while responding to an utility emergency
  • A first responder (law enforcement, fire, EMS) during the performance of their official duties.
  • When in a lawfully parked vehicle-this does not include vehicles stopped at traffic signals and stop signs on the public roadway.

Commercial Vehicle Operators

  • Commercial motor vehicle operators can only use one button to begin or end a phone call.
  • They cannot reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device that it no longer requires the driver to be a seated position or properly restrained by a safety belt.

School Bus Operators

  • The driver of a school bus 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 as a two-way radio to allow live communications between the driver and school and public safety officials

Enforcement

The Georgia Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement have the option to issue warnings for violations as part of the effort to educate and to help motorists adapt to the new law. However, citations can and will be issued for any violation of the Hands-Free Law, including those where the violation involves a traffic crash. There is not a 90-day grace period provision in the Hands-Free Law.

FAQs

-What are the actual fines and penalties?

  • First conviction: $50, one point on a license
  • Second conviction: $100, two points on a license;
  • Third and subsequent convictions: $150, three points on a license

-Can drivers touch their cellphones to dial a number, receive or end a call?

Yes. The law would simply prohibit drivers from holding or supporting the phone.

-Are drivers 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.

-What about vehicles without Bluetooth technology or capability?

Many online retailers offer a Bluetooth adapter for vehicles without Bluetooth or similar technology built into the vehicle.