driving while texting

It is now illegal to hold your cell phone or place your cell phone on your lap while driving in Georgia. The Georgia General Assembly on Thursday approved an amended House Bill 673 that requires drivers to use “hands-free” technology while driving. But hands-free technology is not as clear cut as it sounds.

HB 673 prevents drivers from holding or supporting, with any part of the body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.

The new bill means drivers can’t hold cell phones or place cell phones on their laps while driving. Using the speakerphone on their devices is also outlawed since the driver must initiate the call with their hands.

Only voice-controlled technology is allowed to make or receive calls in your car in Georgia.

Under the amended version of the bill, the fines for driving while holding a phone would be $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $150 for a third offense.

The only way around the new law, if you don’t have a hands-free device, is to have a passenger initiate the call or text for you (as shown in the stock photo above).

If you are ticketed under the new law, you must produce, in court, a receipt or proof that your hands-free device is voice-controlled.

Hands-free devices include Bluetooth headsets, phones that sync with your car’s speakers, hands-free car kits (HFCK), and personal navigation devices (PND), according to AJC.com.

House Bill 673 also prohibits:

  • Writing, sending or reading any text-based communication, including a text message, instant message, e-mail or internet data while holding your device.
  • Reaching for a device if it means you’re no longer in a seated, driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt.
  • Watching a video or movie other than watching data related to the navigation of your vehicle (i.e., your mapping app or GPS screen).
  • Recording a video.
  • Texting while driving is already banned under Georgia law. But police say the existing texting ban is unenforceable because it’s hard to determine whether a driver is texting or dialing on the phone.

    Georgia joins 14 other states (plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) that have laws prohibiting holding cell phones while driving.

    Lawmakers say HB 673, which Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign, will help prevent deaths on Georgia roads. More than 1,500 drivers lost their lives last year while distracted on cell phones.

    Stock photo by Peathegee Inc / Getty Images