ATLANTA - Georgia officials are encouraging drivers to establish new driving habits to prepare for the enactment of the "Hands-Free Georgia Act" later this summer.
The legislation will take effect on July 1. There is no 90-day grace period for enforcement, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
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The new law forbids drivers from having a phone or stand-alone electronic device in their hand or touching any body part while operating a motor vehicle on the road.
READ: Hands-Free Georgia Act
Office of Highway Safety spokesperson Robert Hydrick said it’s important to start addressing these habits now because it will take time to stop automatically reaching for the phone every time it rings.
"If you want to talk on your phone or use GPS while driving," he said. "Now is the time to implement those measures so hands-free will become the instinctive thing to do."
Hydrick also said that the law also prohibits drivers from texting, emailing or using the internet as they drive.
However, drivers can make and receive phone calls through the speakerphone, an earpiece, wireless headset or if the phone is connected to a wireless watch or vehicle’s stereo.
GPS systems are allowed as long as a phone is not in the driver’s hand or supported by any body part.
"We got a Bluetooth on order," Georgia driver Chuck Stone told News4Jax.
Stone said he constantly feels like he has to dodge distracted drivers on his way to work, but believes the new law will help.
"People have their phone up driving this way, swerving into my lane, swerving off the road and they still do it," Stone said.
The agency recommends drivers start addressing their habits now.
Georgia driver Mark Mcanaw said he already follows the new law.
"I don’t use a cellphone when I’m driving," he said. "It’s locked up in my backpack and the ringer's off.”
One way to go hands-free is by placing a device or holder designed for phones in an easily accessible location if drivers want to talk on the phone without interfering with their ability to operate the vehicle, although drivers are not required to purchase one. Drivers can also consider using a “Do Not Disturb” feature.
Hydrick said the agency asks anyone taking a phone call while driving to keep the conversation as short as possible.
Drivers can use music streaming apps as they drive, but are not allowed to activate the apps or change the music through their phones as they drive.
Under the law, drivers are also prohibited from watching and recording videos while they are driving, with the exception of GPS videos and continuously running dash cams.
"Remember, when we are all paying attention on the road, it will reduce the number of crashes, deaths and injuries," Hydrick said. "And that is what the Hands-Free Georgia law is all about."
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