Georgia, like many other states, has enacted "distracted driving laws" that aim to prohibit use of a cellphone while driving in order to keep drivers focused and safer on public roadways. This law prohibits a driver from operating a motor vehicle on public roads while using "a wireless communication device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail or Internet data". Therefore, this law not only prohibits drivers from texting while driving, but also prohibits them from using a smartphone (or any other communication device, such as a tablet) in any manner.
How Could Distracted Driving Laws Affect You?
First and foremost, you must be careful while driving to avoid a ticket for improper use of a communication device. One thing many drivers may be unaware of is the fact that they can be given a ticket if they use their phone in any of the prohibited manners while stopped at a red light. Even if your vehicle is completely stopped for something like a red light, stop sign, or train crossing, this is considered "operating a motor vehicle" under the law, and you can be issued a ticket for improper use of a communication device at this time.
Another thing all drivers should be aware of is the distinction between various car navigational devices. With the increasing popularity of map applications on smartphones, drivers have moved away from window-mounted GPS devices such as those made by the companies Tom Tom and Garmin. However, the use of a navigational app on a smartphone is not an exception to Georgia distracted driver law; you can still get a ticket if you are using your phone as a navigational tool. Police have stated that the use of a separate, window-mounted GPS device does not fall under the distracted driver prohibition, so the use of these is still permitted.
Secondly, the distracted driver law gives police officers a reason to pull your car over. When you are driving on a public roadway, the police must have a valid reason to pull your car over (such as failure to follow a traffic law). If police suspect you are using a cell phone while driving, this is a proper reason to pull you over. Once you have been pulled over, the police may begin additional investigations - such as a DUI investigation. Even if you were not actually using your device in an improper manner, the police may continue with a DUI investigation and possibly an arrest because they were justified in their initial reasoning for pulling you over.
Just because an officer has a legitimate reason to pull you over (such as texting while driving) and charges you with driving under the influence, you are not automatically guilty. If you or someone you love is facing charges for driving under the influence, please contact my law offices. No matter what happened when you were arrested, you can and should fight these charges.