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Georgia hands-free driving law: How are drivers doing on Workday 1?

Georgia’s new distracted driving law is now in full effect — and drivers may already have a handle on hands-free driving.

At least in one local county, on the morning of the first workday under the new restrictions.

Gwinnett County police Sgt. Jake Smith said Monday morning his department had written at least “a few” warnings but that “generally people seem to be taking the new law seriously.”

“I was watching on the way into work this morning and didn’t see a single person obviously using their phone.,” Smith said. “The other officers I’ve spoken to this morning say the same.”

MORE: What’s legal and what’s not under Georgia’s hands-free driving law

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The Georgia State Patrol, which is primarily responsible for patrolling Georgia’s interstates, said it was working on compiling statistics Monday, the first workday under the Hands-Free Georgia Act.

The law  — which represents the most significant change to Georgia traffic laws in a generation — went into effect Sunday. It prohibits drivers from handling their phones or other devices while behind the wheel, with few exceptions. 

Drivers can still use GPS and navigation apps as long as they are not physically holding their phone while doing it. Voice-to-text and calling features are OK. Drivers must be “legally parked” to handle their phone, meaning the law still applies while stopped at red lights or stop signs.

The penalties are $50 for the first citation; $100 for the second; $150 for the the third and so on. 

There is no formal grace period, though many law enforcement agencies have opted to issue warnings for now. 

That includes Gwinnett police, which said Monday morning it was, generally speaking, issuing warnings and handing out educational pamphlets until Aug. 1.

IN-DEPTH: Safety advocates: Georgia’s hands-free driving law a first step

The Georgia State Patrol also plans to focus on education until Oct. 1, but started concerted patrols Sunday

Rockdale County resident Navid Ahsan was among those nabbed. He admitted holding his phone while using his GPS, according to Channel 2 Action News — but also called the hands-free law long overdue.

“We should have done that a long time ago," he said.

Return throughout the day for continuing coverage.

 

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