Joining 15 other states, Georgia has passed new legislation that makes holding a cell phone while sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle illegal – even if the vehicle is stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. The new law takes effect July 1.
The ban also prohibits watching videos from a cell phone, laptop, or tablet while driving, and from having a cell phone “supported by any part of the body” (so no cell phones on your lap). Drivers can still talk on the phone, but only through hands free technology. Texts can be sent, but only through voice-to-text technology. This marks the biggest hcange to driving and technology rules in Georgia since the state banned texting while driving in 2010.
It will still be legal to make a phone call, send a text, or use your cell phone in any other fashion while the vehicle is legally parked.
Governor Nathan Deal will officially sign the bill to make it a law, but he won’t do it from the Capitol as usual. He’ll do it in the city of Statesboro, where five nursing students from Georgia Southern University were killed in a crash. In that crash, the driver of a tractor trailer, who later admitted that he was on his cell phone, plowed into the back of the girls’ vehicle as they approached slowing traffic.
It’s second nature for many people to reach for a cell phone while stopped at a traffic light, but if you do that after next month, you’re at risk of getting an expensive lesson.
Of course, the government expects some push back from citizens who think of the new legislation as overreaching. But Governor Deal said the law shouldn’t be seen as “a hostile act by the state government,” but “an act to protect the safety of anyone.”