Legalese — New Cell Phone Law

Most of us have had an experience on the road wherein we have seen someone driving erratically, weaving across lanes, or going crazy slow or fast, and then noticed that they were paying attention to their phone.  How many of us have yelled, “Get off your phone!” at another driver?

Well, apparently the legislature has taken notice and has passed a new set of laws aimed at keeping Georgia’s roads safe.  This is a good thing on many levels, not the least of which is because Georgia has the dubious honor of having the most roadway fatalities.  So, assuming the Governor signs the law (and why wouldn’t he?), beginning on July 1, there are a LOT more restrictions on cell phones in your car.

While operating a car, you are no longer allowed to “physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body” a cell phone or other wireless communication device.  This means that you can’t hold it in your hand, or cradle it next to your ear, or even have it balanced on your lap.  It is a DON’T TOUCH rule, much like three year olds and a hot stove.  You can, however, have an earpiece or one of those phone-watch dealies I covet. You also can’t physically hold or support a stand-alone electronic device. So you can’t fiddle with the GPS or an iPod either.

You also can’t “write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device.” Lordy, what a world we have come to that such a thing needs to be put into a law. It frightens me that we need to be told that you cannot read or write and drive at the same time. Anyway, there is a practical exception to that rule for navigation devices and “voice based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form.”

You also (duh) can’t watch a movie or video. Eyes on the road, buddy. Eyes on the road.

Section (c)(4) is, in my mind anyway, the ‘millenial rule.’  It prohibits you from recording or broadcasting a video. So, no Snapchatting or or YouTubing or Facebook Live-ing while driving folks. Whatever pearls of wisdom you’ve got to offer can wait. There is an exception for this one, too, for dash-cams “used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle.”

So, let’s say you have a Bluetooth system in your car. Can you dial a number? Well, only if you can do it pushing only a single button. In my car, I can push a button on my steering wheel and tell it who to call (36% of the time it actually works.) That’s one button. When I drive my husband’s car, I have to hit five buttons to unlock my phone and then another two to get into the ‘phone’ app, so I wouldn’t be able to call anyone from his car. Though I could answer a call with one swipe.

This isn’t a terribly expensive offense — $50.00 for the first, and $100.00 for the second, but it can add points to your license, one more with each offense, and that could not only put your license in jeopardy, but make your insurance rates go up.

It is, if nothing else, a common sense safety law. When you are driving, focus on driving.  Look at the road, not your phone.

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.  It is being offered for informational purposes only.




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