Georgia Legislation on Distracted Driving and Cell Phone Use

In Georgia, it’s not against the law to use your cell phone while driving – not yet, at least.

Currently, it’s against the law for bus drivers in Georgia to use cell phone while driving when they have passengers on board. This law went into effect in August 2007. Since then, no new laws have addressed cell phone use while driving.

Georgia House Bill 23 is one promising piece of legislation which was approved by the House and is now sitting in the Senate. Currently, the cell phone prohibition in the bill only applies to drivers under the age of 18, but this could be changed to include all drivers. Further, in the current version of House Bill 23, it is permissible for drivers under 18 to use cell phones in emergency situations, to report accidents, to report crimes, and while parked. In the bill, wireless communication is defined as “talking, writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication, or listening on a wireless telecommunications device,” and a wireless telecommunications device is defined as “a cellular telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand alone computer, or any other substantially similar wireless device that is used to initiate or receive a wireless communication with another person. It does not include citizens band radios citizens band radio hybrids, commercial two-way radio communication devices, subscription-based emergency communications, in-vehicle security, navigation, and remote diagnostics systems, or amateur or ham radio devices.” In the proposed legislation, the driver’s license of a driver under 18 would be suspended if the driver is involved in an accident while engaging in wireless communication. Georgia House Bill 23 was approved by the Georgia House on March 12, 2009, and is still sitting in the Georgia Senate after a second reading on March 26, 2009. If you support a ban on cell phone use for teen drivers, contact your state senator and ask him or her to support HB 23.

Other bills addressing distracted driving are pending. Georgia House Bill 19 would create penalties (points and fines) for distracted drivers using cell phones at the time of accidents. This would apply to hands-free cell phone use as well as conventional cell phone use.

Georgia House Bill 21 would ban drivers with instructional driving permits or provisional driving permits from using cell phones while driving. HB 21 would also apply to hands-free wireless telecommunication devices.

Georgia State Rep. Allen Peake has reported that he will file a bill in 2010 that would ban text messaging for all drivers on Georgia roads. Peake, from Macon, said that his bill would be combined with HB 23.

Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City, a sponsor of HB 23, said, “If the law is enacted and proves successful, it will bolster the case for further efforts to reduce distractions among all drivers.”

However, on his blog, Ramsey stated that he did not believe a ban on cell phones for all Georgia drivers is in the near future; “I would not be optimistic it would pass this year.”

In the meantime, you can stay safe by enacting your own ban on cell phone use while driving. Distracted driving kills. Please keep your eyes on the road when driving.

If you have been injured by a distracted driver, contact an experienced Georgia auto wreck attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.