FaceTime offers a convenient way to enjoy a personal conversation, especially for families or friends separated by long distances. This might seem just the same as a conversation with a passenger in your vehicle, but the law does not see it that way. Accident statistics show that cell phone use creates a substantially higher level of distraction than an in-person conversation and interaction.
Distracted driving laws have increased strictness and penalties dramatically, making engaging in this behavior significantly more costly. Despite this, statistics gathered shortly after Georgia instated the Hands-Free Law show that drivers in Georgia use a device for approximately 15% of their total driving time.
Georgia’s Hands-Free Law
Georgia adopted the Hands-Free Law in 2018, which prohibits specific uses of cell phone technology while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers may not have a phone in their hands or have a phone supported by any part of their body (such as holding the phone on their lap or between their shoulder and ear). In addition, the law specifies that drivers may neither watch nor record a video while driving, so there is no loophole that allows for FaceTime use while driving.
The consequences for breaking the Hands-Free Law include a $50 fine and one point on your driver’s license for the first offense, $100 fine and two points for the second offense, and $150 fine plus three points on your driving record for the third offense.
In addition, a citation for driving while using a cell phone will have ramifications for your auto insurance premium. In fact, your insurer may even choose to discontinue insurance coverage if you have repeatedly been cited for breaking Georgia’s Hands-Free Law.
Dangers of Distracted Driving
Regardless of legal penalties, driving while using FaceTime is undeniably a form of distracted driving that vastly increases your risk of an accident. In 2021 alone, 3,522 people were killed in an accident caused by a distracted driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers a startling picture of the danger posed by reading just a single text:
“Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
With this increased danger in mind, Georgia lawmakers have chosen to prioritize the enforcement of the Hands-Free Law for officers. Georgia law allows for primary enforcement of distracted driving laws. This means an officer can pull you over if they observe you violating the law, even if you are in full control of your vehicle and are not breaking any other laws at the time.
If you must use your phone during a drive, pull off the road. Ideally, pull into a parking area off the road before reaching for your device. Consider integrating techniques like keeping your cell phone in the glovebox while driving, setting up any GPS directions prior to starting your car, or learning to adjust your phone’s settings to limit notifications while driving.
Despite the fines, impact on insurance costs, and other penalties associated with distracted driving, it is still a shockingly commonplace behavior. The suffering and death caused by accidents where distracted driving was a factor are immense, and the momentary convenience of a FaceTime call is never worth the risk of causing a horrific injury or death.
If you or a family member have been injured in a collision and you suspect that distracted driving played a role, contact The Balams Firm for a free consultation regarding the facts of your case. It’s difficult to fully understand your rights without speaking to an attorney about the specifics if your case. Our expert, compassionate team will offer a clear evaluation of your case and the options available to you at your free consultation. Contact us today to book your consultation, and let us advocate for your pursuit of justice.