For months you have had to ditch your phone while you drive or risk getting a ticket. Information about the new Georgia Hands Free Law littered headlines around the time it took effect on July 1st. After 5 months of enforcement of the new law, we checked in with law enforcement for an update.
Corporal Dustin Stone leads the 5 county Grovetown post for Georgia State Patrol. On Thursday, he invited NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne to ride in his patrol car as he enforced the hands free law. Cpl. Stone says the top things he looks for are DUI, speeding, seat belt use and distracted driving.
“I usually put… they had their right hand up to their right ear,” Cpl Stone says about how he marks the citations. “That way later if it goes to court, I can remember what I saw.”
However, Cpl Stone has not been to court yet because people just pay the ticket ahead of time. For the first offense, you can dodge the $50 fine if you go to court and show the judge you took steps to follow the law.
“If you go to court and prove that you purchased some kind of device to abide by the law—a Bluetooth device, some kind of device to make you to be hands free, then there will usually be no fine on the first offense,” Cpl. Stone explains.
During the first 5 months of enforcement, Cpl. Stone says the people he has pulled over have been aware of the law. He says most respond similar to the driver of a red truck he pulled over with NewsChannel 6 in the car. When Cpl. Stone came back to the car with the man’s driver’s license, NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne asked—“Did he know why you were pulling him over?
“He did,” Cpl. Stone answered. “He said, ‘yes sir I was breaking the law.’”
According to Cpl. Stone, the hands free law has been the most advertised change he has experienced.
“Most everyone has heard about this if they’re on Facebook, if they watch the news, if they just pay attention to the signs on the road,” Cpl. Stone says.
It is too early to gauge how the law has affected the number of accidents, but Cpl. Stone is confident the extra incentive has made an impact.
“Before, if we stopped someone…you had to prove that they were actually texting on their phone,” Cpl. Stone points out. “We’re seeing a lot more people complying with the law now that they know—hey if I’ve got it in my hand they’re going to stop me—so think it’s helped a lot.”
The Grovetown post covers Richmond, Columbia, McDuffie, Glascock and Warren counties. Since July, their troopers have written 363 tickets and given 352 warnings.