Since 2010 Georgia has banned texting and driving for everyone on the road. But as of July 1, 2018, the state has tightened laws pertaining to how drivers can use their phone any time they are behind the wheel. Now, drivers cannot touch or support a phone with any part of their body while their vehicle is being operated, which includes sitting at stop signs and at red lights.
The law has been very effective so far. In just over a week since the law was passed, state troopers in Georgia issued 320 tickets to those who broke the law and issued 1,000 formal warnings. The Atlanta Police Department had issued 86 tickets within the same period of time. However, all police departments have not yet reported the number of tickets and warnings issued, so the number of tickets and warnings is likely much higher.
“Closing the loophole that allowed drivers to touch their phone while driving will go a long way in preventing the number of auto accidents caused by texting and driving on Georgia’s roads,” said Georgia Car Accident Attorney Jeff Shiver of Shiver Hamilton. “With the new law, anyone seen even touching their phones can be pulled over and issued a ticket for doing so.”
Tickets for touching a phone while driving start at $50 for a first offense. A second offense will result in a $100 ticket while drivers will receive a fine of $150 for subsequent convictions.
While the law does ban holding a phone with any part of the body while driving, drivers may still talk on a phone while driving. This can be done through speakerphone while the phone is resting somewhere else such as a front seat, or through an earpiece, wireless headphone, or the vehicle’s Bluetooth system. The use of GPS navigation systems is also still allowed.
Although warnings have been issued across the state, there is no official grace period, meaning anyone can be pulled over and ticketed for the violation. Due to this, officials say, drivers should become familiar with the new law and immediately discontinue holding their phone while they are driving.