Vehicles such as cars and trucks have progressed the world to a significant degree. It would be almost impossible to picture a city or town without cars driving around and traffic filling the streets. This form of transport has arisen over the last century and has quite literally changed the world. To visualize the impact and prominence, simply try to picture a major city from around the world, whether that is Dubai, London or New York. Now, remove all vehicles from the roads. It would be like something from an apocalyptic movie. The often continuous drone of engines would be entirely absent, and roads, as we know them, would not be required.
There is so much infrastructure in place specifically for vehicles. Most nations are entirely connected through their road systems. These act as the veins and arteries, allowing for the transport of vital supplies and also allowing people to travel with ease. Many advantages have come through this change, such as the ability to seek out jobs and live further from where one was raised. Travelling by vehicle has become such a prominent feature of life, and the laws that govern it have become integral.
While driving is incalculably useful in the modern world, it also presents dangers to both the drivers as well as pedestrians and bystanders. Compared to a horse and cart, a car is far more predictable, but also substantially faster. It also relies entirely on a driver's concentration and attention to prevent accidents. The higher the speed being travelled at, the more potential for serious incidents to arise. In the majority of nations, the maximum speed limits range from around 70 mph or approximately 120 kph with a certain level of leniency depending on the laws of the state or region. There are specific exceptions including the German autobahn which does not have a speed limit. Beyond the few exceptions, the limits exist to ensure drivers have time to react based on the type of road they are driving on. Changes may arise as technology improves, and self-driving cars are becoming a more realistic and impending prospect. Machines are largely more reliable that people as they do not have to worry about tiredness or loss of concentration. As such, rules of the road will apply differently to them. However, we have not yet reached a point where this is an immediate matter to consider. It is currently the exception rather than the norm.
With all of the difficulties and complexities that accompany driving, the use of phones is generally illegal in most jurisdictions. However, with mobile phones being a necessary part of everyday life, people often use them regardless of the potential negative repercussions. Some areas have adopted more significant preventative measures, with Georgia being one of them.
Georgia Hands-Free Law
The state of Georgia has adopted House Bill 673. It provides a set of strict limitations regarding mobile device use. Some of the limitations may seem over the top, though public safety is considered the bigger concern. The Bill is summarised as follows.
The main use of phones within vehicles is often to make or receive calls. Working people especially have this issue. Often times, a commute may take up significant time and urgent calls cannot wait. However, as per the hands-free law, making contact with the phone in any way is not allowed. This limitation is highly stringent. Even the slightest contact, if recorded or witnessed by a police officer, is liable to receive punishment and fine, which will be discussed further on.
Further to this, it is not permitted to read any form of message or text displayed on a phone device. Videos and photographs should not be viewed as these all cause distractions to the driver. Further to this, listening to music is also subject to the rules. While one may listen to their selected music, it should be chosen and activated while the car is in a parked position. Further to this, no changes can be made once on the move.
There are exceptions to the regulation and also some workarounds that can be used. The reason these exist is that the busy nature of life is recognised and cannot be stopped. These are shown below.
Using a hands-free set of some form is allowed and phone calls can be taken only if they are done so through these means. Further to this, any text to speech-based technology can be used to listen to messages one receives, though this does still require that the individual refrains from touching their phone. One point of note is that any headsets and hands-free kits that are used are not to be used to listen to music. Rather, they should only receive use when a call is taken.
While videos cannot be watched, one can still use navigation systems as these are intended and designed for use in vehicles. Once again though, these should receive attention prior to the journeys start.
There are also types of devices that are exempt from the limitations previously presented. These include the likes of:
- Navigation systems;
- Medical devices that are prescribed;
- Emergency communications;
- Vehicular maintenance systems that require monitoring.
There are further examples, though these are of key note.
Further to this, there are other situations and circumstances that receive a special exemption. For example, in the case of an accident or situation being reported, mobile devices can be utilised. As such, police officers and respondents, while in the line of duty, can communicate through their devices. Finally, if there is ever a serious need to use a phone or if one simply wishes to change their music, there is a simple solution. Pullover and park the vehicle in a safe location, and all functions become possible again.
Fines and Enforcement
Upon the introduction of the regulation In July of 2018, there was no grace period provided for people to adapt to the new law. The reasoning for this was simple. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the safety of all people whether they are in a vehicle or a pedestrian. Further to this, many restrictions of the law were already illegal and were simply added to or cemented here. Due to the potential seriousness of vehicle accidents, the safest option was to immediately enforce the law with no grace time.
The fines work as follows.
- First offence: USD 50 fine and 1 point on the individual's license;
- Second offence: USD 100 fine along with 2 points;
- Third offence: USD 150 fine accompanied by 3 points.
While the fine does not appear extreme, the points can add up over time. Acquiring 15 points within a two year period will result in a license suspension, and points can only be removed by request once every 5 years. Points can receive reduction by up to seven after this period of time.
The bigger concern with the system is that points are considered by insurance companies when provide or renew their policies to an individual. This situation acts as a more significant and indirect monetary punishment. These combined are the two-key means of enforcement. However, the true test comes from looking at the statistics concerning road-related incidents and the number of fines provided.
How Effective has the Law Been
With just over a year having passed since the introduction of the hands-free law, the effectiveness can be measured. However, it should be borne in mind that the legislation was introduced at the mid-point of the year, and this does complicate the issue. Further to this, not all who use their phones while driving are caught or known about.
In general, the number of distracted drivers is reported to have seen a slight decrease. Further to this, the total time distracted while driving also saw a fall. These are tough recordings to obtain though due to the numerous complex aspects of driving. Accidents may occur while an individual is using a device though the device is not what causes the crash. Faults may exist in vehicles which are not discovered, and so the data we have is only partial or perhaps incomplete.
The fines and points system has a serious impact on the potential insurance policies one can apply for. There are also increasing fines depending on the number of offences, and after 15 points will result in license suspension.
Safety while driving is a crucial concern around the world. Almost every nation has strict regulations for the road and it is one of the biggest areas of danger and potential fatality in the relatively safe modern world.
Any form of touch to a mobile phone outside of an emergency situation will result in a fine, and identifying when this is the case is troublesome. Statistics concerning accidents are also not entirely reliable though, the first year has seen a reduction in the time people are distracted behind the wheel.
The move is one which can only bring improvement though. Increases in concentration even to a small degree will ensure the drivers it does effect are safer. The bigger impact will require a greater degree of study, though as we move into a more technologically advanced future, laws relating to road safety are likely to see substantial change. In the coming decades, regulations including the Georgia Hands-Free Law will be realty challenged.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.