ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal has signed the hands-free distracted driving bill into law.
Deal traveled all over the state to sign various bills into law on Wednesday. The hands-free law will impact every driver in this state.
“This is our effort to make sure that these tragedies are not going to occur needlessly again," Deal said in a bill signing ceremony in Statesboro.
Starting July 1, you will no longer be able to hold your phone in your hand while driving. You will have to use some kind of hands-free device.
Deal chose to sign the bill in Statesboro, because it's home to Georgia Southern University. That's where five nursing students killed in a highway crash went to school.
The families of those victims were on hand for the bill signing as well. Deal began to get emotional as he signed the bill.
“Its aim is to prevent the types of tragic and avoidable deaths that occurred on that stretch of I-16 on that horrible day in April of 2015," Deal said. "It's time, and this legislation is Georgia's way of saying, 'Today is the day that we say no more.'"
The new law says drivers can text if they are using technology that converts voice to text messages.
Drivers are also allowed to have a phone in their hand to make emergency calls to report a traffic crash, criminal activity, fire, medical emergency or hazardous road conditions.
The bill came about after a Marietta lawmaker wanted to see why car insurance rates were so high in Georgia. He found out it's because crashes and fatalities are way up. And when he asked why, he was told it's because of cellphones.
The governor's office says there will be no official 90-day grace period, but law enforcement agencies will spend some time educating drivers.
"The Department of Public Safety has told us and other state agencies that while the custom of educating the public on the new law will continue through the issuance of warnings during the first few months, citations can and will be issued starting July 1 in cases where a violation of the law has been found to have caused a crash and in other instances where the officer issues a citation based on their discretion."
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