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Georgians Adjusting to Hands-Free Law

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Georgia has joined more than a dozen other states in banning hands-on cellphone use while driving.

Under the "Hands-Free Georgia Act," drivers may not hold a phone with their hands or use any part of their body to support the device. They also may not use headphones, although they will be allowed to talk on the phone using a speaker, ear piece and hands-free Bluetooth connections.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports state troopers have written about 180 citations and nearly 800 formal warnings through Thursday.  The Atlanta Police Department has written 86 citations.

The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office will allow a 30-day grace period after the July 1st start date by providing a warning to violators of the Georgia Hands-Free Law. Citations will be issued by the Sheriff’s Office beginning July 31.

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department is not observing a grace period. According to Public Information Officer Epifanio Rodriguez, officers will have discretion to act on each violation as they see fit. Athens updates its traffic statistics monthly.

As of July 1, Georgia joined 16 other states and Washington, D.C., in banning hand-held cellphone use while driving, an action prompted here, in part, by a dubious record: The state has had the highest increase in auto insurance rates since 2011. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. John Carson of Marietta, who chaired a legislative study commission on the issue.

Lawmakers were also spurred to action by a rising number of fatalities. The Georgia Department of Transportation estimates that 1,545 lives were lost due to distracted driving, according to Governor's Office of Highway Safety

The act prohibits drivers from having a phone or stand-alone electronic device in their hands or supported by any part of their body when they are driving a vehicle. This includes while stopping at a traffic light or stop sign.

Penalties:

1st conviction will result in a $50 fine and 1 point on a driver’s license

2nd Conviction $100 fine and 2 points

3rd Conviction $150 fine and 3 points

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