On July 1 Georgia’s New Hands-Free Law goes into effect, and Savannah Police officers are telling the public they "are prepared to begin enforcement immediately."
Texting while driving has been illegal in Georgia since July 2010, but the new law will expand the illegal phone usage to any phone activity that involves holding or touching a phone.
"This includes holding the phone up to your ear to talk, reading messages, emailing, watching or recording videos, social media, or programing or holding GPS devices," police say.
Police are urging drivers to "explore available hands-free technology, like voice to text or Bluetooth. If a device needs to be used for GPS, drivers are asked to start the navigation prior to putting the vehicle in gear and to purchase something that will hold the device while navigation is running."
“This law has been put into effect for the safety of all citizens,” said Lt. Torrance Garvin, of Savannah Police’s Traffic Unit. “Distracted driving is a major source of crashes. If we can eliminate those distractions then we can lower our number of crashes and fatalities.”
Savannah Police officers are planning to give verbal and written warnings during the first 30 days for the first offense. Citations may still be issued for an initial offense if officers believe it is warranted.
“We understand that in the first 30 days there will be a lot of education that will need to be done,” Garvin said. “Even though the state has been announcing the change for some time, there are still people who are unaware of the specifics of the law and how it will affect them. Everyone who receives a warning will also receive information on the Hands Free Law.”
Officers are exploring enforcement plans that may include plainclothes officers looking for unlawful phone usage.