On April 22, 2015 a distracted truck driver in Statesboro collided his tractor-trailer into an SUV containing seven nursing students at Georgia Southern University--killing five and severely injuring two of the SUV's occupants. The driver was convicted of vehicular homicide and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
Today--nearly three years to the day since the tragedy occurred--Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 673 into law, which aims to combat the distracted driving problem on our roadways.
The new law, which takes effect on July 1 of this year, is dubbed the Hands-Free Georgia Act. It expressly prohibits the use of any hand-held electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers are not permitted to read, write or send any form of text-based communication while driving. In addition, drivers may not watch, record or broadcast any videos while driving.
Furthermore, the new legislation restricts voice communication while driving. Commercial drivers on the highway may not place or end a call using hands-free technology if doing so requires them to press more than one button.
Anyone who is caught violating this law could be convicted of a misdemeanor and subject to the following fines:
- First-time offense: $50
- Second-time offense within 24 months: $100
- Third-time offense within 24 months: $150
We have reported on the proliferation of distracted driving related car accidents in recent years. Many of these accidents are linked to distraction while using smart phones. It is our hope that the Hands-Free Georgia Act will help to curb this alarming trend, which all too often ends in tragedy.