Distracted driving legislation advances in Georgia House

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Two bills designed to discourage distracted driving on Georgia highways are advancing in the state House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved House Bill 247, which would eliminate a loophole that allows thousands of first offenders to avoid fines for violating the state’s distracted driving law.

On Thursday, the full House is set to consider House Bill 165, which would allow motorists to mount a cellphone or other electronic device on their windshield. Currently, it’s against the law to attach anything to the windshield except clear stickers.

The measures represent the General Assembly’s latest efforts to curb a practice that has contributed to thousands of traffic fatalities. In 2018, lawmakers approved the Hands-Free Georgia Act, which prohibits motorists from handling cellphones and other wireless devices while driving.

That law includes a provision that requires judges to dismiss charges against first offenders who bring a receipt for a dash mount or other hands-free device to court. The “get out of jail free” provision allows motorists to demonstrate they intended to comply with the law in the future.

The use of that provision is not tracked statewide, so it’s hard to tell how many citations have been dismissed because of it. But last year The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found it was used thousands of times a year in Atlanta alone.

HB 247 would eliminate that provision. It also would tweak the fines for distracted driving violations. Under existing law, a first offense costs up to $50, but judges can set lower fines. The new bill would impose a flat $50 fine for a first offense.

On Thursday, the full House is set to take up HB 165. The law would allow a driver to mount a phone or other electronic device on their windshield as long as it did not obstruct his or her view.