Distracted driving is the cause of many car accidents in Georgia, and phone use – both texting and talking – is one of the major sources of distractions. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, highway fatalities increased by a third between 2014 and 2016, and many believe that distracted driving is a contributing cause.
Georgia law already prohibits texting while driving, and further prohibits most minors (under 18) from using a mobile device at all while operating a vehicle. At the federal level, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits texting and requires hands-free devices for telephone calls for most interstate tractor trailer drivers and operators of other commercial motor vehicles. Two recent articles highlight additional attempts to reduce these distractions and make the roads safer.
In Smyrna (Cobb County), Georgia, the city council has now passed an ordinance requiring hands-free use of phones. Similar to federal rules for commercial vehicles, the ordinance allows “one touch” use of phones, which could include answering the phone or starting a GPS system. Violation of the ordinance subjects the violator to a fine of up to $150. The ordinance is effective April 2, 2018.
Legislation has also been introduced to prohibit holding a phone while driving across Georgia. Rep. John Carson, of Cobb County, introduced the bill (House Bill 673) in early January, that would, like the Smyrna ordinance, allow a single touch of a mobile device but would require hands-free use for talking. Similar laws exist in about 15 states and Washington D.C. Aside from requiring hands-free use of phones, the bill would also increase fines for the illegal use of phones (for texting or talking) from $150 to as much as $450 for a first offense, with increased penalties for subsequent offenses.