Some laws are more straightforward than others. Since the Georgia General Assembly passed the Hands-Free Georgia Act in summer 2018, some drivers have been confused about whether they’re allowed to wear headphones while driving. While headphones and Bluetooth headsets enable drivers to talk on the phone hands-free, they can also decrease a driver’s attention to important audio cues while driving, like the sound of an ambulance siren, for instance.
So, is it legal to wear headphones while driving in Georgia?
Georgia code stipulates that drivers “may wear a headset or headphone for communication purposes.” Did you catch the singular headphone? That’s right, even drivers who are using their headphones to talk hands-free while driving may only wear a headphone in one ear. Further, drivers may not wear headphones to listen to music or other entertainment while driving.
The law is designed to decrease instances of distracted driving, which was linked to an increase in vehicle accidents, fatalities, and injuries — especially among younger drivers age 15–25, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). The Atlanta Journal-Consitution (AJC) reported that “traffic fatalities in Georgia rose by one-third from 2014 to 2016 before declining slightly to 1,549 in 2017.” And that’s not to mention the collisions that resulted in bodily injuries of varying levels of severity.
What happens if I’m caught violating the law?
Drivers caught violating the law on a first-time offense face a fine of $50 and one point on their license. For a second offense, the fine increases to $100 and two points on a license. A third or any subsequent violations will result in a $150 fine and three points.
Is the law working?
In the first year after the law was passed, there was evidence that distracted driving behaviors were beginning to decrease in Georgia. The AJC reported a 2.2% decrease in traffic fatalities in 2018. That was a great sign that the law was working. However, the stats began trending upward again in 2019 and 2020. Fox 5 Atlanta reported that 2020 was a record year for traffic fatalities; other communities saw a similar trend of pandemic driver complacency, which led to riskier driving behaviors like speeding.
The Hands-Free law is relatively new to Georgia, so stay tuned for more information on its efficacy. In the meantime, remember to only wear your headphones in one ear and to only use them to communicate.