Georgia law banning drivers from holding phones takes effect

Law designed to reduce distracted driving crashes on roadways

ATLANTA – A new law that took effect Sunday in Georgia bans all drivers from holding phones while behind the wheel.

The measure is aimed at reducing distracted driving, which experts say is responsible for the majority of traffic crashes. Cellphones are considered a major distraction.

The goal of the new law is to get drivers' hands off their phones and back on their steering wheels.

The Hands-Free Georgia Act prohibits motorists from holding phones and other electronic devices while driving. 

Details of the new rules of the road in the Georgia include the following:

  • You can’t hold a phone in your hand, but you can wear a smart watch on your wrist.
  • You can touch your phone to make a call, but not to send a text message. 
  • You can wear an earpiece to talk on the phone, but not to listen to music.

There are the exceptions to the rules, though. You can hold a phone to make a call if you're reporting an accident, a medical emergency, a fire, a crime or hazardous road conditions.

You are also allowed to hold the phone while lawfully parked off the road in a place where it's legal to park.

Also, the law specifically states motorists can use a GPS app or device while driving but you'll need to type in the address before you hit the road, or use voice technology to do it while driving.

The fine for violating the new law is $50 for a first offense and up to $150 for repeat offenders.

Many Georgia drivers are in support the new law.

"A lot of times kids are either calling or holding their phone and they are actually being distracted from the wheel while doing so. I think not being able to hold their phone and talk on it would reduce the amount of people being killed in car crashes," said Ed Johnson.

Johnson is traveling with his family through the state and uses a cellphone mount to stay hands-free.

He said while he doesn't live in Georgia he thinks the new law is fantastic.

Studies show this new law works.

Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted similar hands-free phone laws. 

Thirteen of them saw decreased traffic fatalities within two years and six of them saw decreases of more than 20 percent.

Currently, Florida does not have a hands-free phone law in place for drivers despite attempts in the past to get such legislation passed. 

About the Authors:

Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.