2020 Georgia Code
Title 40 - Motor Vehicles and Traffic
Chapter 6 - Uniform Rules of the Road
Article 11 - Miscellaneous Provisions
§ 40-6-241. Distracted Driving; Restrictions on Operation of Wireless Telecommunications Devices and Stand-Alone Electronic Devices; Penalty; Exceptions

Universal Citation: GA Code § 40-6-241 (2020)
  1. As used in this Code section, the term:
    1. "Stand-alone electronic device" means a device other than a wireless telecommunications device which stores audio or video data files to be retrieved on demand by a user.
    2. "Utility services" means and includes electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, cable, telephone, or telecommunications services or the repair, location, relocation, improvement, or maintenance of utility poles, transmission structures, pipes, wires, fibers, cables, easements, rights of way, or associated infrastructure.
    3. "Wireless telecommunications device" means a cellular telephone, a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver, or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data. Such term shall not include a radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription based emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system.
  2. A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.
  3. While operating a motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:
    1. Physically hold or support, with any part of his or her body a:
      1. Wireless telecommunications device, provided that such exclusion shall not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication; or
      2. Stand-alone electronic device;
    2. Write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided, however, that such prohibition shall not apply to:
      1. A voice based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form; or
      2. The use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes;
    3. Watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle; or
    4. Record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device; provided that such prohibition shall not apply to electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle.
  4. While operating a commercial motor vehicle on any highway of this state, no individual shall:
    1. Use more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication; or
    2. Reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be:
      1. In a seated driving position; or
      2. Properly restrained by a safety belt.
  5. Each violation of this Code section shall constitute a separate offense.
    1. Except as provided for in paragraph (2) of this subsection, any person convicted of violating this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor which shall be punished as follows:
      1. For a first conviction with no conviction of and no plea of nolo contendere accepted to a charge of violating this Code section within the previous 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $50.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof;
      2. For a second conviction within a 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $100.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof; or
      3. For a third or subsequent conviction within a 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $150.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof.
    2. Any person appearing before a court for a first charge of violating paragraph (1) of subsection (c) of this Code section who produces in court a device or proof of purchase of such device that would allow such person to comply with such paragraph in the future shall not be guilty of such offense. The court shall require the person to affirm that they have not previously utilized the privilege under this paragraph.
  6. Subsections (c) and (d) of this Code section shall not apply when the prohibited conduct occurred:
    1. While reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, an actual or potential criminal or delinquent act, or road condition which causes an immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard;
    2. By an employee or contractor of a utility services provider acting within the scope of his or her employment while responding to a utility emergency;
    3. By a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties; or
    4. While in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked.

(Code 1933, § 68A-1103, enacted by Ga. L. 1974, p. 633, § 1; Ga. L. 1990, p. 2048, § 5; Ga. L. 2010, p. 1156, § 2/HB 23; Ga. L. 2010, p. 1158, § 3/SB 360; Ga. L. 2018, p. 127, § 4/HB 673.)

The 2018 amendment, effective July 1, 2018, substituted the present provisions of this Code section for the former provisions, which read: "A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle, provided that, except as prohibited by Code Sections 40-6-241.1 and 40-6-241.2, the proper use of a radio, citizens band radio, mobile telephone, or amateur or ham radio shall not be a violation of this Code section."

Cross references.

- Penalties for Violations of Uniform Rules of the Road, Official Compilation of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia, Department of Driver Services, Driver License Services, Revocation and Suspension, Rule 375-3-3-.01.

Editor's notes.

- Ga. L. 2010, p. 1156, § 4/HB 23, not codified by the General Assembly, provides that the amendment by that Act shall be applicable to offenses committed on or after July 1, 2010.

Ga. L. 2010, p. 1158, § 1/SB 360, not codified by the General Assembly, provides that: "This Act shall be known and may be cited as the 'Caleb Sorohan Act for Saving Lives by Preventing Texting While Driving.'"

Ga. L. 2010, p. 1158, § 6/SB 360, not codified by the General Assembly, provides that the amendment by that Act shall apply to offenses committed on or after July 1, 2010.

Ga. L. 2018, p. 127, § 1/HB 673, not codified by the General Assembly, provides that: "This Act shall be known and may be cited as the 'Hands-Free Georgia Act.'"

Law reviews.

- For article, "Motor Vehicles and Traffic," see 27 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 155 (2011).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Stop justified based on officer's observation.

- Stop of the defendant's vehicle was justified by the officer's observation of the defendant manipulating some sort of device in the defendant's hands, which the officer believed was contributing to the defendant not stopping for the officers directing traffic. Williams v. State, 334 Ga. App. 195, 778 S.E.2d 820 (2015).

Award of punitive damages based on cell phone use in auto accident.

- After an employee collided with a vehicle while driving a tractor-trailer, the employee was not entitled to summary judgment on the punitive damages claim because although the proper use of a cell phone while driving was permissible in Georgia, the court could not find as a matter of law that the plaintiffs could not prove aggravating circumstances that would warrant an award of punitive damages; the punitive damages claims against other defendants failed because the plaintiffs presented no evidence that these defendants actually knew about the nature of the employee's cell phone use. Little v. McClure, F. Supp. 2d (M.D. Ga. Aug. 29, 2014).

Given uncontroverted evidence that a teen driver was not using the driver's cell phone at the time of the accident, the driver's earlier phone-related conduct was not the proximate cause of the driver accidentally striking a pedestrian and the pedestrian's dog, and punitive damages were not available. Head v. de Souse, 353 Ga. App. 309, 836 S.E.2d 227 (2019).

Cited in Smith v. State, 324 Ga. App. 100, 749 S.E.2d 395 (2013).

OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Fingerprinting not required.

- Offenses arising from a violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 do not, at this time, appear to be offenses for which fingerprinting is required. 2018 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 18-3.

RESEARCH REFERENCES

ALR.

- Criminal and quasi-criminal liability arising from use of portable electronic device while driving, 5 A.L.R.7th 3.

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