I’ve written in some of my earlier blog posts that my oldest child
will be a teen driver within the next year or two. The idea terrifies
me! So although I write this blog as an auto accident lawyer, I have a
special and very personal reason to research the rules and regulations
that apply to teen drivers here in Georgia.
Speaking as a parent, I am happy to report that Georgia has a special rule
about texting and cell phone use for teenage drivers. Under a law that
took effect on July 1, 2010, drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed
to “[e]ngage in a wireless communication.”
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.1. The law does have several exceptions, mostly for emergency situations.
What are Georgia’s teenage drivers not allowed to do?
For those teenagers who are future lawyers and think maybe they have some
room to negotiate about what exactly “engage in” means, or
just what counts as “a wireless communication,” the statute
defines the phrase to mean “talking, writing, sending, or reading
a text-based communication, or listening on a wireless telecommunications
What devices are included in the ban for teenagers driving in Georgia?
The statute defines “wireless communication device” to include
a cell phone, anything that sends text messages, a PDA, a “stand
alone computer,” or anything “substantially similar.”
I wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh or cry at the image of a teenager
cruising down the road emailing people on a laptop. Seriously? Is that
What devices can a teenager still use?
The statute says that several devices will not count as “wireless
communication”: CB radios, ham radio, walkie-talkies, in-vehicle
security, navigation devices, etc.
Again, am I amused or horrified by the image of a teen driver humming along
with his left hand on the wheel, and his right hand tapping out Morse
code on his ham radio? Does that really happen? Most of the teenagers
I know would be humiliated at the thought of having a ham radio in their
cars when all of their classmates have cell phones.
Are there exceptions to Georgia’s rule about teenage drivers and
texting and cell phone use?
Yes, the statute does make several exceptions. A teenaged motor vehicle
operator is allowed to report “a traffic accident, medical emergency,
or serious road hazard.” He also can report any “situation
in which the person believes his or her personal safety is in jeopardy.”
The statute makes a third “emergency” exception for teen drivers
who are tying to “report or avert the perpetration or potential
perpetration of a criminal act against the driver or another person.”
In addition to the exceptions for emergencies, the statute makes a practical
exception for a teenage driver who is sitting in a car that “is
lawfully parked.” The exception makes sense, of course, because
a parked car does not pose a threat to anyone. The exception also is important
because one of the goals behind the law is to encourage teenagers to pull
over to the side of the road and park before they text or call. If the
statute did not have this exception, the law would discourage exactly
the sort of responsible behavior that it was intended to prompt.
Because the code has exceptions for emergencies, I have to say that I do
not understand the exceptions that the legislature made for CBs, ham radios,
and walkie-talkies. It would seem to me that any of those devices could
be every bit as distracting as a cell phone or iPad.