Georgia's distracted driving laws prohibit text messaging and handheld cell phone use for all drivers. This article discusses the specifics of what the laws prohibit and the costs of a texting or cellphone ticket.
Reading and writing text messages. 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.
Cell phones and other devices. The texting ban applies to cell phones, 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.
Hands-free restriction. 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. 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 include cell phones, 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.
Georgia's distracted driving laws apply to all drivers, including those operating commercial drivers. And commercial drivers are additionally prohibited from:
The consequences of distracted driving can also be more serious for commercial drivers.
Georgia's distracted driving restrictions don't apply to:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.