Hands Free Law | What You Need To Know

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HOUSE BILL 673- “HANDS FREE LAW”

House Bill 673 also known as the “Hands Free Law” was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.  The Hands Free Law will take effect on July 1, 2018.  The following is a brief description what the law states and some frequently asked questions.  A link to the complete law can be found at www.gahighwaysafety.org.

  • A driver cannot have a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone.  Drivers can only use their phones to make or receive phone calls by using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, phone is connected to vehicle or an electronic watch.  GPS navigation devices are allowed.
  • Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes and not for listening to music or other entertainment.
  • A driver may not send or read any text-based communication unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS
  • A driver may not write, send or read any text messages, e-mails, social media or internet data content
  • A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
  • A driver may not record a video (continuously running dash cams are exempt)
  • Music streaming apps can be used provided the driver activates and programs them when they are parked.  Drivers cannot touch their phones to do anything to their music apps when they are on the road.  Music streaming apps that include video also are not allowed since drivers cannot watch videos when on the road.  Drivers can listen to and program music streaming apps that are connected to and controlled through their vehicle's radio. 
  • The hands-free law does NOT apply to the following electronic communication devices and the following devices can be used by the driver when on the road:  radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription-based emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system. 

EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1.    Reporting a traffic crash, medical emergency, fire, criminal activity or hazardous road conditions.
2.    An employee or contractor of an utility service provider acting within the scope of their employment while responding to an utility
       emergency.
3.     A first responder (law enforcement, fire, EMS) during the performance of their official duties. 
4.     When in a lawfully parked vehicle—this DOES NOT include vehicles stopped for traffic signals and stop signs on the public roadway.

COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATORS

1.    Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators can only use one button to begin or end a phone call
2.    Cannot reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device that it no longer requires the driver to be a seated position or properly restrained by a safety belt

SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS

1.    The driver of a school bus cannot use a wireless telecommunication device or two-way radio while loading or unloading passengers.
2.    The driver can only use a wireless telecommunication device while the bus is in motion as a two-way radio to allow live communications between the driver and school and public safety officials

ENFORCEMENT

When the Hands-Free law takes effect July 1, the Georgia Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement have the option to issue warnings for violations as part of the effort to educate and to help motorists adapt to the new law.  However, citations can and will be issued starting July 1 for any violation of the Hands-Free Law, including those where the violation involves a traffic crash.  There is not a 90-day grace period provision in the Hands-Free Law.  

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why is this law needed in Georgia?
Our state has seen significant increases in vehicle traffic crashes, fatalities and bodily injury. The vast majority of these increases have been in rear-end crashes, single-car crashes and crashes by drivers from 15 to 25-years-old. State and local law enforcement have stated that these incidents are a clear indication of driver inattention. The 15 states that have passed hands-free driving laws saw a 16 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in the two years after the law was passed. In addition, traffic fatalities were reduced even further in subsequent years.

Could I still talk on my phone while driving?
Yes, as long as it is done hands-free. Drivers would be able to use their phone’s speakerphone, Bluetooth technology, an earpiece, a headphone or other device to allow them to communicate on a hands-free basis. 

Could I touch my cellphone to dial a number or receive or end a call?
Yes. The law would simply prohibit drivers from holding or supporting the phone.

Would I be required to purchase a hands-free accessory, such as a mount or bracket?
No. The proposed law simply states that a driver cannot hold or support a mobile phone. A phone can be left on a vehicle’s console, a front seat, etc. However, for the safety of all Georgians, state and local law enforcement recommend the purchase and use of a hands-free device if using a mobile phone while driving.

My vehicle does not have Bluetooth technology/capability. How could I comply with the law?
Many online retailers offer a Bluetooth adapter for vehicles without Bluetooth or similar technology built into the vehicle. These adapters can be found at local retailers or online by searching “Bluetooth hands-free car kit” in an internet search engine. 

What would the fines/penalties be?
• First conviction: $50, one point on a license; 
• Second conviction: $100, two points on a license; 
• Third and subsequent convictions: $150, three points on a license. 

Could I listen to online radio apps while driving? 
A driver cannot touch their phone to activate or program a radio app while they are on the road (the road includes being stopped for traffic signals and stop signs).  A driver can activate a radio app before getting on the road and listen to the programming.  A driver can also listen to programming from their app if it is connected and controlled by the vehicle's stereo (radio), and the driver is not touching their phone while driving.  We caution drivers that music streaming apps that also include video do violate the new law which specifically prohibits drivers from watching videos.   The rule of thumb here is you can listen to your radio app as long as you do not touch your phone when driving on the road AND it's use does not distract the driver in any manner in the safe operation of their vehicle.  

Could I listen to music stored on my mobile phone, thus not requiring an internet connection?
Yes, as long as the driver is not holding or supporting the phone.

Could I talk to someone via video telephony apps, such as FaceTime or Skype, if doing so “hands-free?”
No. The proposed hands-free driving law states that a driver shall not “record or broadcast a video” on any mobile phones, iPads, computers, etc. while operating a vehicle.

Top 6 Types of Personal Injury.

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1. CAR ACCIDENTS

At the scene of the accident:

  • Make sure everyone is okay or receives immediate medical care.

  • Call the police and request an officer at the scene, even if the accident seems small. A police report from the scene can help determine which driver is at fault.

  • Gather information. Get the names and phone numbers of everyone involved, including witnesses. Also take photographs of the accident before moving vehicles if you can.

  • Try not to make statements that indicate fault. Apologies can be interpreted as guilt rather than a polite gesture.

After the accident:

  • Receive any needed medical treatment as soon as possible. Tell your doctor that you were in an accident.

  • Be sure that you complete all of the treatments prescribed by your healthcare professional.

  • Keep a journal of your bills, medications, treatments, and other medical expenses.

You must also contact your insurance company and the insurance companies of those involved. Keep all records of your expenses and needs, such as a rental car or bus fare. Be careful when you speak to someone else’s insurance company. Other insurance companies must protect their clients first, and your statements can be recorded and misinterpreted.

2. MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

Medical malpractice means that a health-care provider did not give you the standard of care that other medical professionals would provide under similar circumstances. You must also prove that the health-care provider's negligence caused damage to you. Most medical malpractice attorneys do not pursue such cases unless injuries and and damages are documented in your records. Your case must also be reviewed and supported by a physician, who will serve as an expert witness.

3. SLIP AND FALL

Personal injury resulting from a slip and fall case]must meet one of these criteria:

  • The owner or employee must have caused the dangerous surface.

  • The owner or employee must have known about the dangerous surface and not done anything to try and fix it.

  • The owner or employee should have known about the dangerous surface because reasonable person would have known about it and tried to fix it.

Judges and juries will determine if the owner or employee of the place where you fell took steps to fix the dangerous spot or warn you about it. However, they will also try to find out if you had a good reason to be in that dangerous spot. They will also want to know if you were distracted or if a reasonable person would have avoided the dangerous spot.

4. DEFAMATION

There are two types of defamation:

Libel: the defamation of a person, group, organization, product, government, or country that was made in written or printed words or in pictures.

Slander: the same thing as libel but the defamation is in the form of spoken words, sounds, sign language, or gestures.

You may have a defamation case if the false statement was said as if it was a true statement and caused damages. Remember that it is important to document both the false statement and the damages that occurred, such as lost income and mental health care.

5. DOG BITES \ ANIMAL ATTACKS

The laws for dog bites vary by state. Some states place strict liability laws on dog owners, meaning the owner is responsible for the bite or attack even if they tried to protect you. Some states require that you must provide proof that the the owner knew the animal had the potential to be dangerous. As with all personal injuries, it is important to document your injury and the damages, like any lost wages and hospital bills. To better understand your state's laws, contact a lawyer.

6. ASSAULT & BATTERY

The legal system often links these two terms. However, they have slightly different criteria, and the exact definitions of the two terms vary by state. Contact a lawyer or the police in your area if you've experienced an assault or battery.

• Assault

Usually, physical contact is not necessary for an assault to occur. Spoken words must also be accompanied with an action that makes you or a group of people afraid of being injured. You must also prove that the other person intended to harm you or your group. In other words, you can't be accidentally assaulted.

• Battery

Like assault, the definition of battery also varies in each state. Generally, a person must intentionally and harmfully touch you without your consent. As with assault, a person cannot accidentally batter you. If you are bumped in a crowd, no matter how offensive it may seem to you, you usually cannot press battery charges.

What to do after a slip and fall accident.

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Slip and fall accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere. Property owners are responsible for maintaining homes and walkways to ensure a minimum level of safety. This is known as premises liability.

If you are injured due to property negligence, you could be entitled to compensation from the property owner for your medical bills, time away from work, and more. Here are 4 steps to take if you are injured in a slip and fall accident.

Step 1: Seek medical attention to treat your injuries

The first thing you should do after a slip and fall accident is call for help and seek medical attention. You need to worry about your health above all else. Go to an emergency room or urgent care facility. This will document your injuries and serve as proof that you've been injured.

It's important that you also go to all medical appointments following your initial emergency care visit. This could be physical therapy or follow-up appointments with a practitioner to make sure you are healing properly. If you skip any medical appointments or do not follow the recommended care provided to you, a jury or insurance company may question the severity of your injuries.

Step 2: Report the accident to the property owner

After you have received the necessary medical care, you need to alert the property owner(s) of the incident so they are aware of your injuries. If you choose to seek a settlement for your injuries, consider the following.

File a claim. Sometimes, the property owner will accept responsibility immediately and be willing to pay your medical bills, but you'll most likely still have to file a claim to get fair compensation for missing work and the long-term consequences of your slip and fall injury.

Limit your communication with the property owner after you've reported the accident. Don't talk to any representative they have hired, either, because they may try to record a statement to use against you.

Don't post on social media or talk to anyone about the incident. Also, take care that your statements and claims to medical providers are consistent with the report you have given to the property owner. These things will help you in court.

Step 3: Compile and keep notes about the injury

Before you file a claim, you need to be able to prove negligence on the property owner's part. This can be done in several different ways.

Take pictures of your injuries and the location where it took place. Try to do this as soon as possible after the slip and fall accident because conditions can change and evidence can disappear. You can also preserve evidence, like the shoes you were wearing, or any clothing that has blood or the substance that caused your accident.

Record any witnesses that saw you fall. Write down the time, date, location, and a description of what happened in your slip and fall accident. You want to do this as soon as possible so you don't forget important details as time passes.

Keep notes about your medical treatments. Describe your pain, doctor visits, and medical costs as best you can. This documentation will be important in forming your testimony later.

Step 4: Talk to an attorney about your injuries

Take all of your evidence to an attorney for help filing a legal claim for your slip and fall injuries. You need to do this as soon as possible to ensure speedy compensation. It's difficult to prove fault in a slip and fall accident, which means your best chance is to have a reputable attorney on your side.

5 Common Car Accident Injuries...And The Steps To take!

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Car accident injuries can range from minor, such as whiplash, to serious, such as brain and spinal cord injuries. Even minor injuries can be costly to treat, which is why you might need to consider filing a personal injury claim.

What to do if you're injured in a car accident

If you've been injured in an accident, follow these steps to ensure that you get the right care and appropriate compensation:

1. Seek medical treatment. Even if you think your injuries aren't that serious, see a doctor right away. Likewise, if symptoms such as pain or dizziness appear a few days after the accident, make sure you get them checked out.

2. Take photos of your injuries and keep notes on your treatment process and symptoms. Keep track of your appointments with doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and other doctors, and save copies of the bills.  

3. Gather all pertinent accident information. Make sure you have the names of witnesses and pictures of any damage to your vehicle. You'll also want a record of any work you missed due to the accident.

4. Consult a car accident attorney. An attorney can help you decide the monetary value of your case.

Brain and head injuries

Some of the most serious common car accident injuries involve trauma to the brain and head. These injuries, usually referred to as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), happen when the head is hit by or hits an object.

Common brain and head injuries include:

Bruising, swelling, or bleeding of the brain.

Concussions.

Skull fractures.

The treatments for brain and head injuries vary widely according to the severity of the injury. For example, rest and pain medications are the most commonly prescribed treatments for mild concussions.

More serious injuries might require:

Medications to prevent blood clots and seizures.

Surgery to stop brain bleeding.

Surgery to alleviate pressure in the skull if your brain swells.

Back and neck injuries

Back and neck injuries can also vary considerably in terms of severity. The sudden, jarring movements of a collision typically cause these injuries, but they can also occur if your back or neck is struck by or strikes an object violently.

Common injuries include:

Whiplash.

Cervical fracture.

Neck or back strain.

Herniated discs.

Fractured vertebrae.

Back and neck injuries can cause lasting disability and lingering pain. Because they can be so disabling, these injuries frequently interfere with the ability to work and do other tasks.

Your attorney will factor in the cost of any permanent disability, such as lost wages or opportunities, along with the cost of treatment in calculating your ideal settlement.

Treatments might include:

Pain medication

Neck brace or collar

Muscle relaxers

Cortisone shots

Surgery

Spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are among the most serious car accident injuries. Damage to the spinal cord can cause significant loss of function, loss of sensation, and paralysis.

These injuries happen when displaced pieces of bone, disc fragments, or ligaments bruise or rip into the spinal cord. When that occurs, it destroys nerve cells that transmit signals to and from the brain and body.  Spinal cord injuries are probably the most expensive auto accident injuries to treat because they often require surgery, assistive devices, and ongoing rehabilitation.

Facial injuries

Injuries to the face can occur in car accidents due to the steering wheel, airbag, windshield, side window, dashboard, or broken glass. Minor facial injuries might include bruises and scrapes, while more serious injuries might include fractures, deep cuts, dental injuries, and jaw problems like temporomandibular disorders. Treatment for facial injuries depends on their seriousness. Some injuries, such as scrapes, might require only basic first aid, while others might require sutures or even surgery. Disorders of the teeth and jaw may require mouth guards, dental work, or dental reconstruction. 

Psychological injuries

Even if no one is seriously injured, car accidents are often traumatic for the people involved. Not surprisingly, psychological problems are among the more common car accident injuries suffered by victims. Psychological injuries might include short or long-term emotional distress, anxiety, and depression following the accident. For those involved in serious accidents, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also surface.

Treatment for these injuries usually includes a combination of therapy and medication. The cost of therapy depends on the type of professional you see. For example, a master's-level counselor will charge less than a psychiatrist or doctorate-level practitioner. Likewise, the cost of medication will depend on the type needed. For instance, a brand-name antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication may cost hundreds of dollars per month compared to a generic that costs only $20. 

Now that you know more about these common injuries and what their treatment entails, you're better equipped to assess the value of your case.