Updated on June 5.
Using a cellphone while driving will be illegal in Georgia starting July 1.
HB 673 will ban drivers from using wireless telecommunication devices to watch or record videos, read, write or send text messages while on the road. The bill also prohibits holding a device while driving. However, exceptions include using GPS, reporting an accident, calling 911 and using a device while legally parked.
“Distracted driving is a huge issue,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. He said that in the past few years, Georgia has seen an increase in the number of accidents that are indicative of distracted driving.
That increase started in 2015, according to statistics published by Blackwood’s office. That year, 3.5 percent of Georgia drivers said they were distracted when they were involved in a fatal crash.
“There’s no text message that is worth your life,” Blackwood said. “Someone who is texting and driving is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than someone who is drinking and driving.”
Blackwood suggests Georgians should start looking into hands-free technology to help reduce their dangerous driving habits now. He said that people shouldn’t wait until after HB 673 becomes a law.
Even if you put your phone away while you’re behind the wheel, the temptation to check text messages and notifications may still arise when you hear the “ding” or “buzz” of an incoming alert. There’s apps that can fix that.
Parents can monitor teens’ cell phone use while driving by using apps like Drive Safe Mode and Lifesaver. Other apps like AT&T’s DriveMode blocks notifications and can send automatic replies to incoming texts.
The Mojo app is another option. Mojo tracks your driving and rewards you for going long periods of time without using your phone.
A simple solution would be to turn on your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature or simply power it down completely.
Voice Commands And Hands-Free Devices
Using voice commands to send texts would be allowed under HB 673. Apps like Drivesafe.ly read text messages out loud so you don’t have to check them manually. Many cars also have built-in Bluetooth capabilities that allow drivers to play music on their phones and make phone calls hands-free.
You can also connect your phone to Bluetooth devices that can be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter. Many of these devices are sold online.
Blackwood also mentioned using ear pieces and cellphone holders that can clip onto your car’s air conditioning vent. Some can even stick onto the car’s windshield.
Hands-Free Still Doesn’t Mean Distraction-Free
Even though devices, voice commands and notification-blocking apps may help curb dangerous driving habits, they don’t eliminate all risks.
The National Safety Council warns that using hands-free devices may still cause distractions that lead to deadly accidents.
“Even if it’s hands-free, you’re going to have some degree of distraction because your mind is not completely fixed on the road,” Blackwood warned. “I believe having two hands on the wheel and your eyes looking straight ahead is a much better situation than having that phone in your hand.”
Update on June 5, 2018: This article has been updated to say that HB 673 will go into effect on July 1. The original article was written before the bill had been signed by Gov. Deal.