BREAKING

Comedian Bill Cosby sentenced to prison

Traffic experts urge Georgians to be ready for hands-free driving law


Georgia’s new hands-free driving law goes into effect in a matter of days and, if one thing’s clear, it’s that a lot of folks still aren’t quite clear on what’s legal and what’s not.

The bottom line, though, is this: You can’t hold your phone while you’re driving. Period.

“Get a mount, get used to it, get used to getting that phone out of your hands,” said Mark McKay, a WSB Radio traffic reporter.

IN-DEPTH: What’s legal and what’s not under Georgia’s distracted driving law

Mark Arum, Richard Eliott and colleagues from News 95.5/AM750 WSB, Channel 2 Action News, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hosted a roundtable discussion Tuesday night about the new Hands-Free Georgia Act, which goes into effect July 1. Members of law enforcement, government officials and other experts also joined them.

They answered a full range of nagging (and recurring) questions.

Many of them — gleaned from “traffic troopers” in the studio audience, other listeners and readers and from social media — were familiar ones.

Is there a formal “grace period” where law enforcement will be offering warnings instead of citations? Nope. While some agencies have said they will put this into practice, there is no grace period actually written into the law. Tickets can be written July 1.

“Don’t wait until July 1,” AAA-Georgia spokesman Garrett Townsend said. “Start now.”

Can I use my GPS? Yes, as long as you’re not physically holding or supporting your phone while you do it.

What about when I’m at red lights and stop signs? Rules still apply. You have to be “legally parked” to handle your phone.

What about voice technology and talk-to-text and stuff? Sure — drivers can actually talk on their phones and text and control music programs, as long as they’re using hands-free technology.

Can I still fool around with the stereo built into my dashboard? You can. But be careful, OK?

The penalties associated with violations of the hands-free law are $50 and one point on your driver’s license for the first citation; $100 and two points for the second; $150 and three points for the third; and so on.

In the grander scheme of things, the fines aren’t much. But the main goal is to save lives, officials said.

“I love personal freedom just as much as anybody else,” state Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, who introduced the legislation, said during a call-in to Tuesday’s roundtable. “But what I also want is public safety, to live with that personal freedom for another day.”

Kathy and Craig Clark, whose daughter Emily was one of the five Georgia Southern University nursing students killed in a horrific 2015 crash, were among those in the roundtable audience. They were active in the getting the hands-free law passed, and were present when Gov. Nathan Deal signed it last month.

“Knowing what we’ve gone through, and if that was me that had done that, caused a life to be lost, I don’t know how I’d live with myself,” Kathy Clark said. “It’s a hard thing to have to go through.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

5 of the most haunted old houses in Atlanta
5 of the most haunted old houses in Atlanta

With Atlanta's long, rich history, it's not surprising that some of the area's older homes are said to be haunted. »RELATED: Photos: Atlanta’s haunted houses Known as the "castle on Peachtree," Rhodes Hall was built in 1902 by furniture magnate Amos Rhodes. Today its upper floors serve as headquarters for The Georgia Trust...
New pickleball courts coming to park in Alpharetta
New pickleball courts coming to park in Alpharetta

Out with the tennis and in with the pickleball. A park in Alpharetta will ditch a pair of its tennis courts and convert them into courts for pickleball, a sport rapidly growing in popularity. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, about 2.82 million people were playing pickleball in the United States in 2017, a 12.3 percent increase...
Alpharetta's NBA hopefuls sign with San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls
Alpharetta's NBA hopefuls sign with San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls

Two basketball players from north Fulton County are getting their chance to prove they belong in the NBA. Within the past week, Kaiser Gates signed a training camp deal with the Chicago Bulls and Jaron Blossomgame inked a training camp contract with the San Antonio Spurs. Gates and Blossomgame both grew up in Alpharetta. Gates played high school ball...
Woman wanted in Gwinnett bank fraud already jailed on similar charges
Woman wanted in Gwinnett bank fraud already jailed on similar charges

When Gwinnett County police asked for the public’s help to identify a woman who used a fake driver’s license to make a large bank withdrawal, she was already sitting in the county jail. Investigators said multiple tips came in after they released photos of the woman last week. The woman, later identified as Brenda Scullark, 55, of New York...
Racist talk at home health care agency will be subject of trial
Racist talk at home health care agency will be subject of trial

The federal appeals court in Atlanta has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an African-American woman who says she endured racist comments from her coworkers on an almost daily basis, including one who allegedly called her “a dumb black (racial slur).” The ruling, issued Monday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, allows Brenda...
More Stories