As you have surely heard by now, a new “Hands Free Law” went into effect for the state of Georgia on July 1, 2018. This legislation is aimed at cracking down on distracted and dangerous driving due to hand-held devices being used behind the wheel. At McKenney’s we were already operating under a company policy of hands-free driving, and we welcome the new laws as a step forward in safety on our roadways.
Gail Allen, our Corporate Risk Manager, recently summarized the impact of the new laws for our employees as follows.
“For those of you in Georgia, the “Hands Free Law” goes into effect Sunday, July 1. The law requires the use of hands-free technology for any wireless telecommunication device defined as a “portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data.” This means your phone, tablet, laptop, GPS receiver or any other portable device with communication capability (does anyone still have a beeper?).
Here are a few things you need to know:
- You cannot have a wireless device in your hand or use any part of your body to support a wireless device.
- You cannot write, send, or read any text based communication (e.g., text message, instant message, email, internet data). Exceptions for navigation and automatic messaging are included though.
- You cannot watch or record video using a wireless device (dash cams are an exception). This means no Facetime, Snapchat video, Facebook Live, Skype, etc. If the music you listen to contains video, you can’t do that either.
- A vehicle must be lawfully parked (not stopped at a red light) in order for the driver to use a wireless device. If you usually pull out your phone while you’re waiting on the light to turn green, stop!
- THERE IS NO GRACE PERIOD! There has been talk about a 90-day grace period, but it’s optional.
Here’s the other thing you need to know. If you violate the law and get a ticket, it will cost you more than money; you will get points on your driving record:
- First violation: 1 point plus a $50 fine
- Second violation: 2 points plus a $100 fine
- Third and any subsequent violation: 3 points and a $150 fine
What do points mean?
Higher insurance, for one thing. I’ve heard rumors about astronomical rate increases for hands-free violations, but I haven’t seen anything concrete yet. There is also the risk of losing driving privileges if you rack up enough points.
It is important to understand that hands-free driving is not risk-free driving. Cell phone conversations while driving, even when done hands-free, remain a major distraction. Here a few tips to help you transition to a hands-free experience while driving:
- Tell yourself it’s more fun to listen to music, a book, or a podcast.
- “Out of sight, out of mind.” If you put your wireless device in the glove box or trunk, you won’t even think about it.
- Set your phone on silent, so that ding signaling a new message won’t haunt you.
- Pretend it’s the 70s or 80s, when you had to pull over and put money in a pay phone to call someone.
- Remind yourself it’s against the law.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the new law; here is a link to Heads Up Georgia to help: http://www.headsupgeorgia.com/handsfree-law/.
McKenney’s is leading the charge in safety and we are committed to all our employees being hands-free on the roadways.
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