Drive Ticket Free
BEING ENFORCED NOW 2018
ATLANTA - It is time drivers started getting used to putting down the phone when behind the wheel. Georgia Lawmakers passed a proposal that would require drivers to use hands-free technology when using cell phones.
It can be seen all the time, almost anywhere, people driving down the road with a phone in their hand. But that could soon change under a bill just passed in Georgia.
"The phone is allowed to be in the car, but while your car is moving or even when it's stopped, you're not allowed to pick the phone up, dial numbers, punch in addresses, that type of thing," said Stormi Kenney who owns Kennesaw Driving School.
"Turn the phones off, put them on silent, put them out of reach so they don't have the temptation of checking the phone," said Kenney.
Drivers will still be able to use phones to talk as long as it has some type of hands-free device. As for using a GPS, it can be mounted it on the dash, but be sure to punch in the address before leaving.
Linda Nordahl said it may take a while for some to get used to it.
"It's going to be very challenging because we've all gotten so addicted to this device, we have to know what's going on right away," said Nordahl.
If caught with that phone in hand, drivers face a fine. It starts at $50 and goes up for repeat offenders. That first $50 can be waived if the offender goes to court and proves they have a hands-free device.
"I think it's absolutely long overdue, I'm glad to see this is finally coming to fruition," said Cris Welsh who lives in Cobb County.
Governor Nathan Deal said he supported the bill. If he signs it, Georgia would be the 16th state to go hands-free.
Starting July 1, 2008, don't be surprised to see a lot of drivers talking to themselves in California and Washington. Or perhaps pulled over and talking to a policeman instead after being caught using a handheld phone. That's when laws prohibiting the use of a cell phone while driving go into effect in those two states, and the only way you'll be able to phone and drive is hands-free.
California and Washington join New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as states in which you can't hold a phone to your ear while driving, while Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina are all considering similar legislation. A total of 17 states also have laws preventing teen drivers from using a phone behind the wheel, and Washington, D.C., and cities such as Chicago and Detroit have their own local ordinances.
If you drive in California or Washington — or any other place with a hands-free cell phone law — and are still steering with one hand and juggling a phone in the other, we're here to help you make sense of the new laws and find a hands-free solution that works best for you, your vehicle and your budget.
A Look at the New Hands-Free Cell Phone Laws
California's Vehicle Code §23123 prohibits all drivers above the age of 18 from using a handheld cell phone, while VC §23124 makes it illegal for drivers under 18 to use a phone at all. The only exceptions apply to commercial-truck drivers (excluding pickups) and to motorists on private property or using a handheld phone to make emergency calls. The base fine for the first offense is $20, and $50 for subsequent violations, but additional penalty assessments and fines could more than triple that amount. A violation goes on your driving record, although the DMV will not assign points to your license.
For all drivers, using a handheld cell phone is a primary violation, for which an officer can pull you over. The California law doesn't prevent drivers from dialing a number by hand or specifically prohibits text messaging (although the DMV strongly discourages both), and use of a speakerphone is allowed. For those under 18, using a hands-free device is a secondary violation, meaning the driver can be cited only if stopped for another reason.
Washington's handheld cell phone law (ESSB 5037) applies to all drivers regardless of age, and a law banning text messaging (EHB 1214) went into effect on January 1, although it's not a violation if you're entering a number while driving. Emergency vehicle and tow truck drivers are exempted, as is using a handheld cell phone to report illegal activity or emergencies. The fine can be as high as $101, and under both laws an infraction doesn't become part of your driving record and isn't reported to insurance companies or employers. Both are secondary violations.
Attitudes by the Number
On the eve of these new hands-free cell phone laws taking effect, the Bluetooth device company Parrot released a survey that not only reveals statistics on awareness of the California and Washington laws in those states, but drivers' phoning habits as well. And since California is the most populated state (comprising almost 12 percent of all U.S residents) and is by far the state with the most licensed drivers (almost twice the number as second-ranked Texas), the survey provides a compelling cross-section of attitudes toward phone use behind the wheel.
Highlights from the survey include:
- Forty-one percent of drivers in California and Washington use their cell phones while driving, and 47 percent say they already use a hands-free device.
- One in four respondents age 34 or younger admitted to text messaging while driving.
- Only half of the California respondents could correctly identify July 1, 2008 as the date the hands-free law goes into effect; awareness levels in Washington State were even lower (28 percent).
- Nearly three out of 10 respondents believed the law is already in effect in Washington.
- Support for the hands-free legislation is high (75 percent), with close to three out of five regarding phone use while driving to be very dangerous (55 percent), but only two out of five say they will use their phone less (39 percent).
Getting Ready To Go Hands-Free
Given these stats, it's clear that drivers aren't simply going to hang up and drive in California and Washington come July 1, but there are plenty of hands-free options available for chatting legally. The easiest and least expensive solution is to use a speakerphone if your phone has one, or a wired earpiece. But both of these have drawbacks: With a speakerphone it may be difficult for the person on the other end to hear you over road and wind noise, and wired earpieces can be cumbersome and distracting while driving.
Even if you don't drive in a state with a hands-free cell phone law, it's always safer to keep both hands on the wheel. Numerous studies have shown that drivers distracted by anything — phones, the radio, passengers — are more accident-prone, and some experts believe that even talking hands-free can be distracting enough to increase the likelihood of an accident. It all comes down to personal judgment and responsibility. So make sure you obey the law — and use logic — when driving and phoning.