Georgia: Cell phone laws, legislation

Last updated: March 12, 2014
Georgia state flag for cell phone storyCell phone legislation news: State Rep. Rahn Mayo has essentially refiled his legislation from the 2011-12 session that would outlaw use of handheld mobile phones while driving in Georgia. Only teen drivers currently are restricted from using cell phones.

Mayo’s new legislation, House Bill 31, was prefiled for the 2013-14 session in late December 2012. Mayo expects a committee meeting in early February. His previous and similar handheld cell phone bill, HB 67, died quickly in the House in early 2012.

Georgia has issued only about 1,300 tickets under the distracted driving laws that went into effect two years ago, the Department of Driver Services reported in late October 2012.

Georgia bans texting by all drivers. State law also prohibits teens from using cell phones while behind the wheel. A WSBTV reporter found that so far under the cell phone law, fewer than three dozen drivers (under the age of 18) were cited.

State Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, reportedly plans to file cell phone legislation for the 2013 session as well. It would require use of hands-free devices while driving. Mayo said he was unaware of Horacena’s plans.

Gov. Nathan Deal has not taken a position on a hands-free law, WSBTV reported.

Current prohibitions:

  • Text messaging banned for all drivers. Fines of $150.
  • Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from using cell phones, regardless of whether a hands-free device is attached. Also bans computer use. Fines of $150.
  • School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving, if passengers are present.

2013-14 legislation:
House Bill 34: Would outlaw use of handheld cell phones while driving a vehicle in Georgia. (Mayo)

Distracted driving notes (2012):
Villa Rica’s City Council rejected a general distracted driving ordinance Sept. 3. In addition to banning handheld cell phone use while driving, prohibitions would have included eating, writing, grooming, etc. The mayor said he saw no reason to go farther than the state’s 2010 law.

Only one bill was filed for the 2011-12 General Assembly sessions seeking to ban use of handheld cell phones while driving. State Rep. Rahn Mayo’s plan died in the House. Mayo, D-Decatur, refiled the distracted driving bill for the 2013-14 session.

The City of Atlanta has barred its employees from using cell phones while driving on the job. The City Council cited liability and the overall toll of distracted driving in its Aug. 20, 2012, decision.

2011-12 legislation (dead):
HB 67: Would have outlawed use of handheld mobile phones while driving. Died after second reading. (Mayo)

2011 distracted driving notes:
The Georgia Chapter of the National Safety Council isn’t going to bat for HB 67, which would ban handheld cell phone use but allow calls using hands-free accessories. “Just going to a hands free (device) does not improve safety,” Robert Wilson said. “The distraction is not the physical phone, it’s the conversation.”

2010 session legislation (successful):
SB 360: Would outlaw text messaging and related activities on cell phones while driving. Specifies the ban would not apply to cell phone calls. Fine $150. Also would prevent young drivers with instructional licenses from applying for a regular license if guilty of two texting violations in a year. Approved by the Senate on March 18. Approved by the House (131-19 vote) on April 27 and sent to the governor. Signed by the governor on June 4. Took effect July 1. Latest action: After a one-month delay in writing tickets, enforcement began Aug. 1. (Murphy)

HB 23: Would prohibit drivers with restricted licenses who are under 18 from using wireless devices such as cell phones and texting units. Fines up to $150 plus possible license suspension. If driver is found at fault in an accident, fine would double and license would be suspended. Approved by the Georgia House on March 12, 2009, but stalled in the Senate after a second reading in March 2009. “Recommitted” in Senate as of Jan. 11, 2010. Approved by the Senate (47-0 vote) on April 27. Signed into law by the governor on June 4. Went into effect July 1. Latest action: After a one-month postponement, enforcement began Aug. 1, 2010. (Ramsey)

More 2010 session legislation:
HB 938: Would restrict all drivers from text messaging. Drivers under 18 also prohibited from using cell phones while driving. Fines $50 to $100 plus two points. If driver is found at fault in an accident while texting, fine would double and license would be suspended. Under-18 drivers would lose license for 90 days on first offense, then six months. Directs law officers to note use of wireless communications on accident form. Approved by the House on March 26 in a 134-31 vote. (Peake)

Georgia House Bill 945: Would outlaw use of cell phones and related texting devices by all drivers while operating a motor vehicle on state roads and highways. Fines up to $300. (Amerson)

HB 944: Would prohibit drivers from texting and emailing. Fines up to $300. (Amerson)

HB 940: Limits students’ use of electronic devices, including cell phones, while on a school bus. Drivers are already barred from using cell phones. This bill’s main target is bullying. (Hugley)

SB 306: Exempts hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets from the state law prohibiting use of headphones while driving. Passed by the full Senate on Jan. 28, 2010. (Heath)

SB 327: Sseeks a ban on text messaging and using handheld cell phones while driving. Primary enforcement. Fines $175 then up to $500. One driver’s license point, then two. (Thompson, Thomas)

2010 legislation notes:
Enforcement of the Georgia distracted driving laws that went into effect July 1 was delayed until Aug. 1 due to an “administrative decision” by the Georgia Department of Public Safety. Violators are now subject to $150 fines.

Suspense hung over the text messaging and cell phone laws approved by Georgia’s Legislature as the governor fretted over enforcement issues. Safety advocates and students lobbied successfully in the final days of the legislative session for him to sign the bills. Gov. Perdue said June 2 of the SB 360 texting ban: “I’ve got some concerns over the enforceability of that. … None of this business is black and white.”

Rep. Allen Peake, who sponsored similar legislation, said that Perdue had threated a veto but saw the light: “I think you have to look at it from this standpoint. The benefits significantly outweigh the negatives and the concerns about law enforcement.”

State media reported that Perdue cut a deal with lawmakers that his concerns about enforcement would be addressed via new legislation next year. “Therein lies a potential problem,” the Athens Banner-Herald editorialized June 8. “It’s certainly possible that, in addressing Perdue’s concerns, lawmakers could cause additional confusion. … (They) might be well advised to leave well enough alone when it comes to the new law on texting while driving.” (Perdue will not be in office in 2011.)

The successful measure SB 360 also is known as the “Caleb Sorohan Act for Saving Lives by Preventing Texting While Driving,” in memory of a Dahlonega teen killed in a texting-related crash. The bill notes that “virtually every driver in Georgia now possesses” a cell phone.

Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlongea, says he was inspired to file the anti-text messaging Georgia House Bill 944 by friends who lost their grandson in a texting-related accident over the holidays.

Sponsor Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said: “My bill started out just to ban teenage texting, but as we went on, we got more feedback from constituents saying, ‘Hey, why doesn’t this apply to adults?’”

A driver who was cited for driving while using a hands-free headset inspired SB 306, which modernizes the Georgia law against the wearing of headphones while operating a motor vehicle. Sponsor Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, saw his bill become the first legislation passed by the Senate in the 2010 session. “Drivers who want to be safe on the road and use hands-free devices should not be penalized for using good judgment,” he said. The law predated widespread use of wireless telecommunications devices.

2009 legislation (inactive)
HB 19: Would create distracted driving penalties for motorists who were using cell phones at the time of an accident, with or without hands-free devices. One-point penalty and up to $500 fine upon conviction. Appears dead.

HB 21: Would ban drivers with learning permits (instructional or provisional) from using cell phone, with or without hands-free devices. One-point penalty upon conviction. No action — see HB 23.

Georgia cell phone/texting legislation notes:
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager or an adult. You’re still dangerous to other people,” says Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, whose HB 945 would ban texting by all drivers regardless of age.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, says he’ll “be happy to look at” evidence showing text messaging while driving is dangerous. He plans to focus on property tax issues in 2010.

HB 23, which was approved in the House on a 138-34 vote, calls for fines of $50 to $100 and two points on the offender’s driving record. An accident caused by a teen using a cell phone would result in a loss of license for three months or until the driver turns 18.

HB 23 was sponsored by Reps. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City, Edward Lindsey of Atlanta and Tom Rice of Norcross (all Republicans). “If the law is enacted and proves successful, it will bolster the case for further efforts to reduce distractions among all drivers,” Ramsey wrote on his legislative blog. Of a ban on handheld cell phones for all drivers, he wrote, “I would not be optimistic it would pass this year.”

Cell law inspiration: Ramsey notes he was run off the road by a high school student talking on a cell phone while driving.

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, has been a driver of cell phone driver legislation in Georgia. She filed the bills HB 19 and 21 for the 2009 legislative session, but they were not approved. Her HB 174, banning use of cell phones by teen drivers, also failed to become law in 2007.

Georiga’s law preventing school bus drivers from using cell phone while on the road was enacted in August 2007.

Comments

  1. i think people under 18 shold be able to if they want

  2. gary darnell says:

    I agree people should not text and drive. I also do not see how police can drive safely and have a laptop computer right in their face.

  3. I would like to comment on the cell phone law.
    NO ONE should text and drive.
    November 1, 2009 my husband was involved in an accident caused by an 18 year old using his cell phone. Result: one man dead, my husbands leg will never be the same, and the 18 year old’s life is ruined, he is going to prison.

  4. Beverly Steed says:

    To support Texting for drivers would also support texters who abuse and misuse the English Langauage.

    This maybe the reason why accidents take place during texting, because the conversation in writing short or them breaking words up are not understood by the texters. The texter gets stuck mentally and forget what is actually happening. They make the choice of not being a safe driver.

    Please take texting away. Thank you.

  5. I think this is bullsh*t if you are going ban the use of cell phones for anyone under 18, they should ban it for all people. Then how are they going to be able to inforce this??? Cops cant pull over every teenager they see on their phone. If you want to ban cell phones and texting fine, but just do it for alll people. NOT just one group.

  6. Phillip says:

    Here is an excerpt from one of our state reps (macon). If texting while driviing is more dangerous than driving drunk, why doesn’t the punishment fit the crime!

    “There are studies that clearly show that texting while driving is a greater distraction than even if you were legally drunk,” Peake said. “You think about that for a while – with all those citizens out there, they’re a whole lot more dangerous than a road full of drunks.”

  7. This article is confusing. It states:

    “Text messaging banned for all drivers. Fines of $150. (effective July 1)

    Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from using cell phones, regardless of whether a hands-free device is attached. Also bans computer use. Fines of $150. (effective July 1)”

    Which is it???? Banned for ALL drivers or only drivers under 18???

  8. Banning anyone under 18 from using a cell phone is an absurd notion. Someone who’s 21, 30, or even 60 can just as easily cause an accident while talking on the phone. This part of the law should be thrown out as it unfairly pegs teenagers as the cause of cell phone related accidents.

  9. So, if someones driving under the influence or you see extremely bad road rage, someone driving up the wrong side of the road, etc. and the 18 yr. olds and under have to just watch this take place, because they can’t call the police or state trooper. Man this sounds kindof wrong.

  10. @ Justin … Teen drivers are not experienced drivers as the 21, 30 or 60yo, but I do agree that banning texting while driving should be across the board.

  11. @ Kim… If road rage, DUI etc is observed by a teen driver, it would make sense to pull over and make the call to the police. Just because someone else is reckless does not justify a teen’s use of texting and driving. A level of maturity and common sense should guide one to pull over and make the call.

  12. K Fountain says:

    This is a good thing. Drivers under the age of 18 do not have enough driving experience. They should give 100% attention to driving. It is true that older drivers might have an accident, but they are less likely because of experience.

  13. K Fountain says:

    If an emergency occurs, just pull off the road in a safe place and make your call. Common sense. That’s another reason to enforce this law.

  14. Patrick V says:

    Its amazing how many people are upset over Banning under 18yo’s from using cellphones. It’s based on driving experience. Someone under the age of 18 has at least 2yrs driving experiences if that and by having them be on a cellphone just adds more danger. I don’t see the big deal, wait till you’re 19yo and use your phone. They’re trying to deter accidents and every teen thinks they’re the best driver on the road which is annoying enough.

    They’re not going to randomly pull teens over, but if you get in an accident and you were on your phone and you’re under 18yo say goodbye to your licenses.

  15. Has no one considered the vast possibilities for the abuse of this legislation? I don’t think anyone can truly deny the dangerousness of DWT, but the question is truly whether or not this specific legislation tackles that problem effectively. The answer, is no.

    Unlike talking on a cell-phone, which is typically done in plain view with a person holding the device directly to their ear, texting is primarily done closer to the lap or near the bottom of the steering wheel. This means it will most often NOT be within the view of a cruising police officer.

    Common sense might tell us that “we know when someone is texting or not” – and that might be so. But as if already corrupt police officers need ANOTHER phantom reason to easily pull someone over hoping to violate their rights enough to pin a charge on them (preferably one with a hefty fine), here we have one more instance where officers are free to claim they “thought” someone was texting and pulled them over “just to be safe.” In fact even if they were not, it won’t stop them from making that stop WORTH IT. To assume this will not happen is just naive, and to claim that it’s worth it to institute perceived “safety measures,” even if that means throwing away our rights NOT to be hassled by the authorities is disappointing and downright frightening.

    There is truly no reasonable way to police those texting and I guarantee there will be no attempts to police the abuse of those who are supposed to be watching over our texting habits. This is not about whether or not a loved one of yours was injured or killed in such an incident. That is certainly a tragedy, but is not directly relevant to this specific law. A law which does not clearly explain how they define texting and the nature of what police need to see in order to deem worthy a traffic stop.

    Do we need to give more and more reasons to police officers to pull us over when they basically don’t need one already? Do we want the natural evolution of such laws to end in random or even scheduled checkpoints every few miles or so (sound like a police-state to you)? Or cameras watching our every move down the highway? If these ideas do not scare you then you need a history lesson more than you need this law to be enacted.

  16. Why cant people under 18 cant talk on phone if we use had free what big deal we have life just like people over 18

  17. In reply to: “Ds on July 2nd: Why cant people under 18 cant talk on phone if we use had free what big deal we have life just like people over 18″

    Cause younger drivers haven’t been driving for as long as everyone else and don’t have as much experience, and this is coming from someone who is 22 and doesn’t like talking on the phone while driving. Honestly I think it all should be not allowed, I see crazy people driving crazy and I look, they are on their phone, I see people stopping for green lights, on their phone. I think it should be done in congested cities where traffic is heavy and on eways.

  18. eric goodman says:

    The problem isn’t texting, it’s the fact that the average person is a f****** moron and is paying more attention to something other than the road. I can easily text while driving and still pay lots more attention to the road than I am my phone. I’m capable of doing that because I realize that I’m on the road and I take a much longer time to text and focus on the phone only during periods where me not having my eyes on the road for a second (ie. not in a curve, right beside another driver, etc) and take less time during those periods than even using my car’s radio takes me.

    If you want to make the roads safer, banning actions that can be done safely isn’t the way you do it. Actually trying to teach people to be smart (something our school systems still aren’t focused on cause they are too busy making sure you aren’t cheating when the average person isn’t even smart enough to cheat very well) and think about the situation and ask themselves “if something happens the moment my eyes leave the road will I have enough time to react safely when my eyes get back to the road?”. If the answer is anything other than yes then that person needs to wait until the conditions change before doing anything other than driving (this includes changing the radio, eating, whatever)

  19. Okay. I’m actually in a field that studies the effect of cell phone talking while driving. Yes, there is quantifiable evidence that talking on the phone significantly reduces your ability to drive. I’ve read one study (on college students) that it’s about the same as having four beers. Just like most people can’t recognize when they’ve had too much and shouldn’t drive, you don’t notice how much of your attention is taken away from the road. Your brain compensates by processing less of the information your senses receive. Why this is different from listening to the radio or talking to somebody in person is a matter of debate. Hands free sets also help none or very little.

    These laws also help establish liability in the event of an accident, so it’s not just about catching people in the act.

  20. David Justice says:

    It’s all common sense, which has escaped some posters here. DRIVING IS A FULL TIME JOB. No 3500 pound bullet has the right to reach in the french fry bag, apply lipstick, send and receive text messages while operating. Neither does the self-serving person holding the steering wheel. For the 18 y/o who thinks he/she has a right of life…..He/She may have, but their personal agendas do not outweigh public safety. TEXTING WHILE DRIVING SHOULD BE BANNED IN ALL 50 STATES AND THE PENALTY FOR INFRACTIONS SHOULD BE SET HIGH ENOUGH TO COVER COURT COST AND REHAB AND/OR HOSPICE COST FOR RESULTS REQUIRING ONE OR BOTH. Cell phone providers should equally be held accountable as they profit from such behavior. There is no text message important enough for a driver to jeopardize the quality of life to an innocent victim.

  21. Deborah Moshier says:

    I have lived in N.Y. and now am in GA.,and I have had too many close calls with idiots gabbing on their cell phones.Too many young people in both states because they were talking or texting.I just do not understand what is so important that it can’t wait until you get out of your car.It is dangerous enough on the roads without any other distractions.You really have to drive defensively and keep alert every minute that you are driving.I am 57 years old and have seen the roads getting more and more dangerous.I used to love to travel,but now I am a nervous wreck.I honestly do not know how some of these people got a license.I would love to see legislation that totally bans the use of cell phones while driving banned in every state in the nation.

  22. calvin burns says:

    good news an thanks for this good website

  23. Besides this texting/calling while driving law, which I think is necessary, I think there should be a headlight law as well. I’ve seen way too many people, including the police, driving in the dark or pouring rain without headlights. What’s the deal? It’s not about you seeing what’s ahead, it’s whether or not you can be seen by on coming traffic or a driving turning out in front of you. I just moved here from Europe and it’s so amazing that so many people drive and talk/text and drive without headlights AND don’t use blinkers. Wow!

  24. Really brittney? Its obvious your undr 18.

  25. Mike Thomas says:

    Any type of cell phone use should be outlawed. This will save so many lives and injuries. I can’t believe what I see on the road with these drivers in cell phone comas here in Georgia. No wonder nobody here uses turning signals. It’s because they all have one hand on the phone and one on the wheel. They would have to grow a third arm and hand in order to signal as a courtesy and lett the other guy know what they are about to do. Driving while talking on the phone is as bad as being past the legal limit of alcohol while driving. Georgia, stay off the phone while driving! Pull over and answer or make your call on the side of the road before you kill someone.

  26. Al Cinamon says:

    Allow me to explain why the law only applies to the “under 18″ crowd. The simple fact is they don’t vote. Politicians can’t antagonize the people that can retaliate by voting them out of office. Instead they sock it to the people that can’t vote. Do you think they will ever pass laws targeting senior citizens. Don’t you think that at some age, say 100, a driver should be retested? Never happen. Seniors vote!

  27. A while back my wife got pulled over for illegal use of a communication device at a red light (in GA). She uses her cellphone alarm clock to wake up the kids and it was going off. It even went off while the office was giving her the fine, proving her point. It so happened that she also did not have her license on her (rush job to get kids to school after missing the bus).

    Fine for switching of phone alarm: $150. Fine for driving without a license: $19. Go figure.

  28. b. ethridge says:

    I recently got into heated discussion with 2 teenagers re: cell phone usage for Ga. Please settle this:

    Under what circumstance would any branch of law enforcement stop a vehicle for cell phone use? Ex. if you have your phone out in your hand putting in the phone number could you be ticketed for cell phone use?

    Could the officer ask to see your cell phone to see if you were texting or dialing/talking?

    Is dialing your phone number the same as texting as far as being ticketed?

    Can someone show the driver (adult 64 yr old) a picture on their phone that happens to be on the internet? Would it matter if it was on their pictures VS internet

  29. i think those kind of laws should apply based upon your driving record

  30. Okay, wow, most of these comments are just awful. Inexperienced teens should NOT be aloud to talk on the phone and drive. Why risk it, when you’re putting other peoples’ lives at risk?!?!

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