The holiday season is upon us and it’s the time when more people are driving on the roadways than at any other time of the year. With this in mind, we wanted to remind everyone to drive safe and drive free of distractions which are the leading causes to serious motor vehicle accidents. We also wanted to remind you that Georgia has a law criminalizing “Distracted Driving”. To begin understanding Georgia's distracted driving law (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241), it’s imperative to we must understand the devices named and whose use is forbidden under the statute.
First, under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(a)(1):
“Stand-alone electronic device” means any device other than a wireless telephone or wireless communication device which stores audio or video data files to be retrieved on demand by a user. Examples of these would be devices such as an iPod or MP3 player, a GoPro, video recorders, camcorders, etc.
Second, under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(a)(3):
“Wireless telecommunications device” is essentially, any type of portable telephone, cell phone, smart phone, flip phone, etc. Also, this includes laptop computers, tablet computers/iPads, and GPS systems which are not installed as "in-vehicle" options.
The presences of these items in the car are not forbidden nor is the use of these items by passengers forbidden. The law strictly focuses on the use of these items by the driver of a vehicle.
What is illegal under Georgia’s Distracted Driver Laws?
- It has long been the law that regardless of whether a cell phone or other device is used, any action taken by the driver that distracts them from the safe operation of the vehicle is a violation of Georgia law. A driver of a vehicle is required at all times to use “due care under the circumstances of operating a motor vehicle” while driving. Examples of certain conduct which may be unlawful for causing distracted driving under this provision include: using tobacco products, turning around to discipline children, applying makeup, eating a meal, looking for something in glove box, etc. The issue with driver conduct such as in these examples, is whether or not the conduct caused or contributed to the driving operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
- Under Georgia’s “Hands Free” Law, basically forbids the driver of a vehicle from the use of any wireless, computer, electronic or mobile device that’s use causes or can cause a distraction of the driver from the safe operation of a vehicle. The mere act of holding a cell phone while the vehicle is in operation, or any of the devices defined above, is a violation of this law.
With this in mind, you certainly SHOULD NOT, write, read, look for or send a text, email or other form a message. Furthermore, DO NOT search the internet, watch a video, or use these devices at any time while in the operation of a vehicle. Even while sitting still at a red light, it is unlawful.
While it sometimes can seem basic common sense not to do some of these prohibitive actions, there are times when we, as drivers, get complacent, comfortable, bored, or alternatively we get overly concerned with the chaos of daily life, too busy to relax or otherwise overwhelmed with things we need to do, all of these and similar things can lead to poor decision making while operating a vehicle. It is important, for the safety of the driver, the passengers and all of us that travel on the roadways, that we make a conscious decision to focus all of our attention on the safe operation of the vehicle.