The Georgia Hands-Free Law:  Georgia might as well have asked us to stop breathing!

That’s right, the new Georgia Hands-Free Law goes into effect on July 1, 2018, and the only thing I can think to ask is, “Can we do it?  Can we really do it?  I mean I am CyberMan… faster than an SSD, more powerful than a GeForce GTX 1080 ti in SLI, able to leap tall server racks in a single bound… and I have already applied for a second mortgage to pay for those future fines and increased insurance rates.   Best to plan ahead!

We have to be honest here and truly ask ourselves this question!  I can already see myself cruising down the road, listening to my favorite station, and getting a call from a client.  As I am programmed to do, I unconsciously grab the phone and respond to it.  Immediately!  Not only because it’s a client, but because immediately reacting to the hail of our mobile devices has simply become a reflex!  Any ‘ding ‘snap ‘pop ‘bling ‘ring or ‘sing and we literally become entranced, immediately excusing yourself (or simply ignoring) the current conversation, event, class, meal, purchase, stop sign, pedestrian and probably even the ticket being handed to you by the police officer who stopped you for handling your mobile device while driving.

It’s… well… like breathing!   We don’t think about it!  It just happens automatically; not only a subconscious level, but an unconscious one!\.  I don’t have to tell my brain to have my lungs fill up with and blow out air.  It just happens!   Even when I am unconscious!  Likewise, we have evolved essentially to where we don’t have to tell our brains to tell the arm and hand to reach out and grab our mobile phone when it hails us!  It just happens!  And, for those like me, sometimes even when I am unconscious (grin).

The Georgia Hands-Free Law is going to greatly impact our daily lives and right now we are hoping to see an increase in awareness in media.  We have to get  prepared for this!  We have to wean ourselves from the habit.  It’s going to be hard.

On the bright side, the Georgia Hands-Free Law will surely be helping Georgia rake in the tax dollars from the fines on this law for sure.  And let’s not forget the huge increase in the volume of people being shuffled through the traffic courts in every municipality throughout the state.  We then have to ask, “can Georgia do it?  Really do it?”

Included below is a copy of House Bill 673, or the Georgia Hands Free Law.  We appreciate Heads Up Georgia for posting this for us.  It outlines very clearly what you can and cannot do with mobile and other devices while operating a motor vehicle.  Notice there are no exceptions for autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles.  That’s an important one to know if you own one.

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HOUSE BILL 673- “HANDS FREE LAW”

House Bill 673 also known as the “Hands Free Law” was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.  The Hands Free Law will take effect on July 1, 2018.  The following is a brief description what the law states and some frequently asked questions.  A link to the complete law can be found at www.gahighwaysafety.org.

  • 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, phone is connected to vehicle or an electronic watch.  GPS navigation devices are allowed.
  • Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes and 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 message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS
  • A driver may not send or read any e-mails, social media or other internet content
  • A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
  • A driver may not record a video (continuously running dash cams are exempt)

EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW ARE AS FOLLOWS:

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

COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATORS

1.    Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators can only use one button to begin or end a phone call
2.    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 DRIVERS

1.    The driver of a school bus cannot use a wireless telecommunication device or two-way radio while loading or unloading passengers.
2.    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

When the Hands-Free law takes effect July 1, 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 starting July 1 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.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why is this law needed in Georgia?

Our state has seen significant increases in vehicle traffic crashes, fatalities and bodily injury. The vast majority of these increases have been in rear-end crashes, single-car crashes and crashes by drivers from 15 to 25-years-old. State and local law enforcement have stated that these incidents are a clear indication of driver inattention. The 15 states that have passed hands-free driving laws saw a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in the two years after the law was passed. In addition, traffic fatalities were reduced even further in subsequent years.

Could I still talk on my phone while driving?

Yes, as long as it is done hands-free. Drivers would be 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.

Could 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.

Would 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 could 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 “Bluetooth hands-free car kit” in an internet search engine.

What would the fines/penalties be?

 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.

Could I listen to online radio apps while driving?  (Updated information)

A driver cannot touch their phone to activate or program a radio app while they are on the road (the road includes being stopped for traffic signals and stop signs).  A driver can activate a radio app before getting on the road and listen to the programming.  A driver can also listen to programming from their app if it is connected and controlled by the vehicle’s stereo (radio), and the driver is not touching their phone while driving. The rule of thumb here is you can listen to your radio app as long as you do not touch your phone when driving on the road.

Could I listen to music stored on my mobile phone, thus not requiring an internet connection?

Yes, as long as the driver is not holding or supporting the phone.

Could I talk to someone via video telephony 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.

Submit specific questions about the Hands-Free Law to:  https://www.gahighwaysafety.org/contact/

SOURCE:  CyberLoft Technology Solutions & Heads Up Georgia