Cell Phone Driving Laws in Georgia
New national reports indicate that distracted driving is one of the key causes in crashes and accidents on the nation’s roadways. Most drivers are aware that texting while driving can cause accidents, but the new studies also indicate that dialing the phone, talking on the phone, and listening to a conversation, even hands-free, all cause equal numbers of crashes. It was reported that over 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2016, making that the deadliest year since 2007. This is most likely due to the fact that anything that distracts a driver offers the potential for an accident. While texting and driving has been banned in Georgia since 2010, utilizing a phone while on the road is not. However, given the new information, Georgia lawmakers are considering revising this ruling. Currently, teens are banned from any type of cellphone use, speaking or texting, while in the vehicle. However, there are numerous exceptions to the rule for adults, and even some for teens. The following offers additional information about Georgia’s cellphone driving laws, and what Georgia drivers need to know to stay safe.
Cell Phone Usage by Georgia Minors Operating a Vehicle
While many Georgia drivers under the age of 18 are aware of the prohibition against phone use in the vehicle, they may not know that computer use in a car is also prohibited. This means that a driver under the age of 18 is not allowed to use the search feature on a smartphone, or access and use a laptop, a tablet or a Kindle while operating a vehicle. This does not apply to a passenger, however.
For teens that are caught texting and driving, or using cellphones in any way while driving, the penalties are steep. In many respects, the fines are higher than for adults, mainly due to the fact that younger drivers have less experience behind the wheel, in general, and coupled with the distraction of a phone are likelier to get into serious accidents. Additionally, it could be that the Georgia State Highway Patrol is hoping to curb bad behavior before it has a chance to become a dangerous habit. However, there is an exception to that rule. If a teen driver is in an emergency situation, then he or she may use the cellphone to report accidents, report crimes and may use the device while parked.
Adult Cell Phone Usage While Operating a Vehicle in Georgia
As with teen drivers, texting is banned for all vehicle operators in Georgia. This also includes sending internet data, such as pictures. It is illegal to read a text while driving, as well. School bus drivers are banned from using cellphones in any capacity while driving, including both talking and texting. Also included in this ban is checking email while in a moving vehicle, or doing an internet search. Adults can, however, use their phones in the car to speak with others. While many use their hands-free options available in their cars, it is not illegal for adults to use their phones in the car. No state in the U.S. has banned cellphone use outright for drivers, but each state has been allowed to develop its own set of rules and regulations concerning the use of cellphones in vehicles. Currently, there is pending legislation in the Georgia legislature that would ban cellphone use while driving for all age groups, and a $150 fine for violators. However, the new legislation would not ban complete cellphone use for adults if drivers use hands-free or Bluetooth technology.
Penalties for Breaking the Cell Phone Usage Laws in Georgia
Adult offenders are most often cited with breaking the cellphone usage law as a routine traffic stop for other reasons. In many instances, the police officer will check the driver’s phone to see if there was any cell phone abuse. Texts that were sent at the same time of the accident will be reported as distracted driving. This can result in an additional $150 fine, and at least one point on the driver’s license. However, cellphone laws are considered “primary” laws, which means that law enforcement can pull a driver over for violation of the cellphone law, alone, without pulling a driver over for another traffic violation. Drivers should keep in mind that when accidents are caused that were preventable, they open up the door for lawsuits from the injured party, or parties. In addition to the fine and the assessed points to the driver’s license, the driver could also be facing punitive charges in a court of law. If this is the case, there could be additional costs involved with hiring a lawyer. Points are cumulative in Georgia, so drivers who accumulate at least 15 points within a 24-month period can have their licenses suspended.
If a driver accumulates 15 points within a two-year period, his or her license will be suspended. Depending on the seriousness of the violation, the driver may receive many points on his or her license. Aggressive driving, for example, can receive at least six points.