Sorry to start on such a negative note, but there are roughly 344,000 car accidents every year in Georgia. And most of these are simple distracted driving mistakes that are completely preventable.
That’s why arguably THE most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.
What Is Distracted Driving?
According to Georgia state law, “Distracted driving includes performing any activity while driving that could distract you from safely operating your vehicle. This can include talking hands-free on a cell phone, texting, checking the radio and much more.” Distracted driving is illegal in Georgia.
While the law in this state focuses primarily on distracted driving caused by cell phone use, you can potentially be cited for engaging in any distracting behaviors while behind the wheel.
Distracted Driving Statistics in Georgia
You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Georgia:
In the first six months after Georgia instituted its hand-free cell phone requirement, officers in this state wrote 8,036 citations for the use of handheld devices.
In the three months following that, they issue an additional 7,077 citations.
A study by TrueMotion found that prior to Georgia’s hands-free law, drivers in this state texted or used apps during 19.5% of their time behind the wheel
Shortly after the law took effect, cell phone use while driving dropped 21% to 15.4% of total driving time.
In a Constitution survey, 45% of respondents stated that they always obey Georgia’s new distracted driving law, and an additional 40% stated they obeyed it most of the time.
Does Georgia Have Laws against Distracted Driving?
State Representative John Carson, an advocate for tougher distracted driving laws, calls distracted driving “the DUI issue of our generation.”
Currently, the state of Georgia prohibits:
The use of handheld cell phones by all drivers – your phone may not be touching any part of your body while you are talking on it
Reading, writing, or sending text messages while driving
Reading or posting to social media while driving
Recording or viewing videos while driving
The use of any cell phones, even hands-free, by school bus drivers
Distracted driving in general
Plus, more work is currently being done to reinstitute a statewide ban on the use of any kind of cell phone, even hands-free, by drivers under the age of 18.
Georgia compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions
Every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona; however, in 2021, Arizona will roll out new cell phone restriction laws, leaving Montana the last in line.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Distracted Driving Laws in Georgia?
In Georgia, the following exceptions apply to the distracted driving law:
First responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS) during performance of duties are exempt from distracted driving laws.
Employees or contractors of a utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment while responding to an emergency are exempt from distracted driving laws.
You may use your handheld phone if reporting an emergency, crime, or traffic accident.
Dashboard cams are permitted.
Cell phones may be used for navigational purposes, such as through Google Maps.
GPS use is permitted.
The use of music streaming apps is permitted as long as they are preprogrammed and controlled through the car’s stereo system.
The use of the following electronic communication devices is permitted while driving: radio, CB radio, CB radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communications device, and any in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostic system.
Georgia Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance
Is texting while driving legal?
Can you send/receive texts at a red light?
Is handheld device use permitted?
Any special restriction for young drivers?
Is headphone/headset use permitted?
* legal only for the purpose of making cell phone calls
Is It Legal to Eat a Cheeseburger while Driving in Georgia?
Yes. And no.
Georgia’s distracted driving laws were thrust into the national spotlight in 2015 when a man was pulled over and given a ticket for eating a cheeseburger while driving. This left many drive-thru enthusiasts wondering, “Is it really illegal to eat while driving?”
Georgia law leaves a lot of this open to interpretation. While the law does not specifically state that eating while driving is illegal, it does say that, “a driver should exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and should not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.”
Since eating while driving is a known distracting behavior, the officer who pulled him over felt that a ticket was in his power. In most cases, police officers in this state will not charge you with distracted driving unless you commit a moving violation or are involved in an accident while doing so.
Given the open interpretation in this state’s laws, unless you're really in a hurry, you’d be better off just eating indoors or sitting in the parking lot.
What Is the Difference between Primary and Secondary Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws?
Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means that the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.
Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means that the police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.
Georgia uses primary enforcement.
This means that if a police officer sees you violating state distracted driving laws, they can pull you over and write you a ticket — even if you're in total control of your vehicle and not breaking any other laws.
What Is the Fine for Distracted Driving in Georgia?
The penalties and fines for distracted driving in this state are as follows:
For a first conviction: $50 fine plus one point on your driver’s license
For a second conviction: $100 fine plus two points on your driver’s license
For a third or subsequent conviction: $150 fine plus three points on your driver’s license
The fine for distracted driving in Georgia compared to surrounding states
First-time offenders of Georgia’s distracted driving laws can get their citation revoked by souping up their vehicles with a way to enable hands-free cell phone calling.
Does Distracted Driving in Georgia Increase Insurance Rates?
Distracted driving violations add points to your driver’s license, so your car insurance company is likely to increase your rates. The only exception is if you get your first offense dismissed by purchasing hands-free technology for your car. In that case, no points would be added and your rates would probably remain the same.
Distracted driving is illegal in Georgia. If you're involved in a traffic accident while engaged in any type of distracting behavior, from texting to grooming, you'll be considered at fault—even if the person you collided with ran a red light. This, in turn, can lead to a significant spike in your car insurance rates.
Keep in mind, also, that a distracted driving citation can cause you to lose your good driver discount if you've earned one, and this can make your rise in premiums even more painful.
What If I Drive into Florida or Alabama?
Distracted driving laws vary by state, so if you drive into a neighboring state that has different laws, you may wonder how these laws relate to you, as a Georgia resident.
The laws in many neighboring states, like Florida and Alabama, allow you to use handheld devices while driving. But does this mean once you cross the border you can hold your phone to your ear without breaking any laws?
Well, yes you can. But why would you want to? Assuming your car has already been outfitted for Bluetooth or other hands-free technology, why would you want to make the distraction of talking on the phone even more hazardous by holding the phone in your hand?
What Is Georgia Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving?
The Georgia Department of Transportation reports that the recent crackdown on cell phone use while driving has already resulted in a decrease in the number of accidents in this state. Lawmakers are currently working toward strengthening these laws even more by adding stronger cell phone restrictions for drivers under 18, too.
On top of that, Georgia continues to expand its Heads UP Georgia public service campaign to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving through paid messages, driving course segments, television interviews with distracted driving crash victims and their family members, and other media outlets.
So What Can You Do?
Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it, let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting and the Candy Crush until you get home.