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Georgia cellphone law goes into effect

Georgia became the sixteenth state to prohibit the use of hand-held mobile devices by drivers when Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 673 into law. The bill, which is also known as the Hands Free Law, also bans recording video with mobile devices and reading cellphone screens while behind the wheel. Motorists in the Peach State who wish to avoid a $50 ticket must now either use hands-free devices or pull over before using their smartphones. The law went into effect on July 1.

The bill does not mark the first time that lawmakers in Georgia have attempted to tackle the issue of distracted driving. Texting while driving was banned in 2010, but the law was widely criticized by road safety advocates because making phone calls was still allowed.

Police in Georgia can now pull motorists over for simply holding a cellphone, but the law does include a number of exemptions. Drivers can still use their hand-held devices to report car accidents, fires or criminal activity, and navigation applications like Google maps are permitted. Lawmakers were swayed to vote for the bill after learning that accident rates involving younger drivers have soared in recent years.

Technology that is making the roads more dangerous could also provide crucial evidence to accident victims pursuing civil remedies. Making phone calls, sending text messages or accessing the internet using a smartphone leaves electronic fingerprints that may reveal what transpired in the moments before a collision, and the information stored on vehicle data recorders could establish that no attempts were made to avoid an accident. Experienced personal injury attorneys may use this kind of evidence to encourage reckless drivers or their insurance companies to avoid expensive court battles and settle litigation quickly.

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