Creator of Georgia’s hands-free law says it needs to change to get rid of loophole

ATLANTA — A change could be coming to Georgia’s hands-free law.

Most Georgians know you can’t drive and hold a cellphone at the same time. But the man who wrote the bills wants to get rid of a loophole for first-time offenders.

Marietta lawmaker John Carson said a loophole left in the law allows first-time offenders to present an affidavit to a judge saying they’ve bought a hands-free device. If this happens, their charges are then dropped.

The loophole was initially included in the law because so few people realized it was a new law, but three years later, that’s not the case.

“It’s been three years. There’s 99% awareness (of the hands-free law). It’s time to save more lives,” Carson said.

The Georgia General Assembly passed the then controversial law that made it an offense to drive while holding your cellphone in 2016.

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Since then Carson said Georgia has seen a dramatic decrease in fatalities statewide. He told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that the decrease is directly attributable to the hands-free law.

“From 2016 to 2019, fatalities have gone down 4.5%. But if you count in population growth and traffic, fatalities are down 12%.”

It wasn’t easy getting the law passed. Carson got some reluctant lawmakers on board by offering the loophole for first-time offenders.

Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan said that loophole needs to go away because it was nearly impossible to keep track of.

“There’s no way to enforce that. There’s no repository of these affidavits. Most judges around the state aren’t utilizing the affidavits anyway,” Morgan said.

Carson said getting rid of that loophole could save even more lives.

“The recognition of the hands-free law is about 98%, 99%, and this just makes it more enforceable and will save more lives,” Carson said.

The bill also has the support of the law enforcement community including the Georgia Chiefs of Police Association.