Eyes on the road, off your phone
Published 8:04 pm Monday, April 9, 2018
Senior partner, criminal defense attorney at Swindle Law Group
At about 6 a.m. last Friday morning, I was riding with GBI Task Force Agent Damon Morris to go turkey hunting in Meriwether County.
As we were cruising down Highway 27, I noticed that he had a copy of HB 673 in the back seat. This in known as the “hands free” cell phone bill that just succeeded in the General Assembly, and awaits the signature of Governor Nathan Deal, who supports it.
I asked him what he thought of the bill. He said, “You know, I think when the governor signs the bill into law, we will see two things, there will be many more traffic stops. Habits are hard to break. As you know, some of these traffic stops will become more serious than receiving a ticket.”
Many lives will be saved. Look at all the distractions we already have on the road. When HB 673 becomes law, the largest and most dangerous distraction, the cell phone, will be much safer to use.”
Will enforcement be easier? He said, “Yes. Current law makes it difficult to see if a driver is talking, texting or just holding his phone. Additionally, if there is a collision, law enforcement must go through the lengthy and expensive process of obtaining phone text records to determine if the driver was texting at the moment of impact.”
Well, why wouldn’t a traffic officer just ask for consent to search the phone? He said, “would you give consent?”
Yeah, good point.
In general, HB 673 will require Georgia drivers to use hands-free devices or voice-activated technology in order to talk on their phones while driving.
Well, what does that mean?
The following acts will be unlawful: (Please keep in mind that this is a brief summary. For information on all provisions in the bill, read it in its entirety).
Holding or supporting, with any part of the body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device, like smart phones, iPad, etc.
Writing, sending or reading any text-based communication, including a text message, instant message, e-mail or internet data while holding a device.
Reaching for a device if it means you’re no longer in a seated, driving position or properly restrained by a seat belt.
Watching a video or movie other than watching data related to the navigation of your vehicle.
However, there are several tasks we can still perform while driving. Some of those include:
Speaking or texting while using hands-free technology.
Using a GPS system.
Using an earpiece, like a Bluetooth, to talk on the phone.
Also, there are circumstances when you can handle an electronic device while driving. These include reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, a crime or delinquent act or a hazardous road condition. You can also use your hands if you’re lawfully parked.
Some people are exempt from the hands-free requirement if they’re performing official duties; police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, ambulance drivers, other first responders and utility employees or contractors responding to a utility emergency.
It seems that it may take a little time and expense to prepare for compliance. But, this minor inconvenience will be significantly outweighed by the number of human lives saved.