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Using a phone while driving is illegal, but Georgia motorists don’t seem to care

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Since the “Hands-Free Georgia Act” took effect in July, roughly 1,000 citations have been issued

Traffic stopped in both directions on a packed city street.
If you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic, keeping off the phone can be tough, but those are the rules.
Curbed Atlanta

The “Hands-Free Georgia Act,” long-discussed legislation that bars drivers from touching their smartphones, went into effect about two months ago.

Motorists caught tweeting or texting or even switching the Spotify playlist can be pinned with a $50 fine and a point on their license. For a first offense, that is.

People busted two or three times could be docked $100 or $150, respectively, and an additional two or three penalty points.

But after three violations of the new law, the punishment doesn’t increase, which might have something to do with why Georgia drivers don’t seem to care much about obliging the cell phone ban.

In just the first month since the law took effect, nearly 1,000 citations were issued, according to Fox 5, citing research published by the American Automobile Association (AAA).

AAA, surveying about 1,200 people in Georgia, found that 98 percent of drivers are well aware that it’s now illegal to use their devices while behind the wheel.

It also discovered that motorists don’t seem to care.

Seventy-five percent of respondents to AAA’s questionnaire said they’d seen other drivers using their phones on the road. Sixty percent claimed they’ve seen people unabashedly texting while driving.

As the legislation, House Bill 673, puts it, Georgia drivers can’t use any part of their body to touch their devices, nor can they use headphones. Wireless headsets and voice-directed phone use is still okay.

The bill’s ratification makes Georgia the 17th state to adopt hands-free policies, and the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that such laws have curbed accidents by an average of 16 percent over a two-year period, according to Fox 5.

Despite the news of nearly 1,000 citations issued in the first month, Georgia State Patrol officials told the Gwinnett Daily Post they expect to see more rule-breakers—although they’ve busted fewer than expected so far.

Under the new law, reporting an accident or other emergency via phone is still allowed.