Georgia lawmakers passed the Hands-Free Georgia Act on March 29, the final day of the 2018 General Assembly. The distracted driving legislation prevents motorists from holding cellphones while behind the wheel, according to a report in U.S. News & World Report.
Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign the Act into law, which would make Georgia the 16th state in the U.S. to mandate hands-free driving.
Specifically, the new legislation prohibits drivers from: Holding a cellphone or standalone electronic device such as an iPod; writing, sending or reading any text-based communication while holding a device; watching or recording a video; and, leaving one’s seat or driving position to retrieve a device, according to report in Savannahnow.com.
First-time violators would be fined $50, with penalties increasing for repeat offenders, reports U.S. News.
Proponents of the legislation say it’s time to get tough on distracted drivers. Crashes in Georgia have risen by 36% over the last two years as compared with a 16% drop in accidents over the same period in 13 of the 15 states that have enacted hands-free laws, reports savannahnow.com.
Moreover, Georgia traffic fatalities increased despite a 2010 ban on texting and driving. The ban was also difficult to enforce, as officers could not always determine whether a driver was dialing a cell—which is presently legal—or texting. The hands-free legislation is intended to deter the use of cellphones unless used with voice recognition and wireless technology. However, if the law is enacted it should also simplify policing as any driver caught with a cellphone in hand while operating a vehicle will be given a summons.