Michaela Lumpert, Deputy News Editor
A new Hands-Free Law went into effect in Georgia on July 1st. The law now prohibits anyone from driving while holding a cellphone or any wireless communication device, sending and reading text messages and watching and recording videos.
Drivers are allowed to have a GPS system or GPS app on in the car, but are not allowed to type or change the set address. Use of music streaming apps and other Bluetooth devices either through separate devices or through a car system is still acceptable. Wearing a smart watch is also still allowed, as long as it is not used while driving. In case of emergency, the law does allow the use of emergency buttons for vehicle and driver safety. Lastly, when answering or ending a phone call, drivers are only allowed to use one button in the car or a talk-to-type device. The only situation in which a phone can be used is when the car is legally parked. While it may seem like a lot of rules, the basic understanding of the law is that it is illegal to use a phone while driving; drivers must be completely hands free. There is a flier produced by Berry that students can refer to if they have any questions or would like a deeper knowledge of the law.
A bigger change that Berry students are facing is the fact that the law is in effect on Berry’s campus. Gary Will, assistant vice president of campus security, informed students of the law this summer through an email and reminded students what to expect when returning to campus.
“The police officers will use their discretion as far as issuing a warning and a campus college ticket for those students inappropriately using their phones,” Will said.
So far there have been no violations of the law on campus, but things might change once students have fully returned. Will reminds everyone to follow the law even on campus when students might not think they must.
“It’s best to get in the practice of not using your phone or at least using it in the way the law allows it,” Will said.
In preparation for the law, some students and faculty have placed hands-free Bluetooth devices in their cars so that they can make and receive phone calls safely and within the parameters of the law. Junior Meghan Kelly recently had one of these devices installed in her car in preparation for the law going into effect. Her parents felt that it would be safer to have a new radio installed in her car that included Apple Car Play, which is allowed in the new law.
“It’s definitely very helpful having it,” Kelly said. “I feel better about driving and calling safely, and my parents feel better about me driving.”
Will has noted that many staff members have purchased Bluetooth ear pieces in order to comply with the law.
The law was passed due to the increasing number of vehicle accidents over the past years. Lawmakers hope to reduce these numbers over the course of the next couple years and encourage Georgia residents to drive safe. Will believes that because of this law, there truly has been a shift to take precautions and save lives.
“I think the law to date has shown a decrease in injuries and death,” Will said.
For more information on the law, visit https://www.gahighwaysafety.org/highway-safety/hands-free-law/.