Georgia’s Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Georgia’s distracted driving laws and the costs of a violation.

Georgia’s distracted driving laws prohibit text messaging and handheld cellphone use for all drivers. This article discusses the specifics of what the laws prohibit and the costs of a texting or cellphone ticket.

Texting and Electronic-Device-Use Restrictions

For all motorists, it’s illegal to write, send, or read a text-based communication (including regular text messages, emails, instant messages, and Internet data) while operating a vehicle. The texting ban applies to cellphones, tablets, messaging devices, laptops, and all substantially similar devices.

Georgia also prohibits drivers from watching a video or movie or recording or broadcasting a video while operating a vehicle. However, the recording and broadcasting restriction doesn’t apply to electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the vehicle.

Cellphone Restrictions

Georgia’s distracted driving law makes it unlawful for drivers to “physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body” a “wireless telecommunication” or “stand-alone electronic” device while operating a vehicle. This restriction applies to cellphones and lots of other electronic devices. Basically, the law allows only hands-free electronic device use while driving. So, drivers can generally still talk on the phone if using an earpiece or other voice-operated technology.

Wireless telecommunication devices. Georgia law defines “wireless telecommunication” devices to including cellphones, text-messaging devices, personal digital assistants, computers, GPS receivers, and all other substantially similar devices that are used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data.

Stand-alone devices. For purposes of Georgia’s distracted driving law, “stand-alone” device means any device used to store audio or video data to be retrieved on demand by a user.

Restrictions for Commercial Drivers

Georgia’s distracted driving laws apply to all drivers, including those operating commercial drivers. And commercial drivers are additionally prohibited from:

  • using more than a single button on a wireless communication device to initiate or terminate a voice communication, and
  • reaching for a wireless communication device or stand-alone electronic device to in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated position or properly restrained by a safety belt.

Exceptions and Penalties for Distract Driving Violations

All distracted driving violations are misdemeanors in Georgia. However, the specific penalties for a distracted driving ticket depend on how many distracted driving convictions the driver has had within the past 24 months. And there are a number of exceptions written into Georgia’s distracted driving law.

Penalties

First offenses. For a first distracted driving violation, a motorist is looking at a maximum fine of $50 and one demerit point. However, handheld-device-use first offenders who appear in court and provide proof of purchasing a hands-free device can get the charge dismissed.

Second offenses. A second distracted driving conviction carries up to $100 in fines and two demerit points.

Third offense. Anyone convicted of a third distracted driving violation faces up to $150 in fines and three demerit points.

Commercial drivers. Motorists operating commercial vehicles who violated the distracted driving law—in addition to the penalties specified above—are subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,750.

Exceptions

Georgia’s distracted driving restrictions don’t apply to:

  • reporting traffic accidents, medical emergencies, fires, criminal activity, or serious road hazards
  • public utility workers or contractors working within the scope of their duties while responding to an emergency
  • law enforcement, firefighters, or other first responders performing official duties, or

Also, Georgia’s distracted driving law applies only to persons who are actually operating a vehicle. So drivers who are lawfully parked aren’t subject to the restrictions.

Other Possible Charges

Depending on the circumstances, a texting or cellphone violation could also lead to a reckless driving conviction. And if one of these violations results in the death of another person, vehicular homicide charges are a possibility.

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