Here's what Georgia's new hands-free law says about using Pandora, Spotify

Nathan Bodenheimer installs a new stereo in an SUV at Ken's Stereo Wednesday afternoon.
Nathan Bodenheimer installs a new stereo in an SUV at Ken's Stereo Wednesday afternoon. jvorhees@macon.com

A tip sheet circulating about new driving regulations in Georgia has opened up a Pandora's box of confusion about internet radio use.

People across the Peach State are now worried that using services such as Spotify and Pandora will be outlawed under the new Hands-Free Georgia Act that takes affect July 1.

"There's been a lot of confusion about this," Harris Blackwood, director of the the Governor's Office of Highway Safety said Wednesday morning.

The state highway safety agency recently consulted with a couple of legal authorities about what is banned under the bill passed by this year's Georgia General Assembly.

The GOHS recently posted a list of key points that drivers are prohibited from doing under the new law.

It stated: "A driver cannot... Listen to internet based radio apps (i.e., Pandora, Spotify, etc).

The list was spread through social media including the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office that posted it Tuesday evening on Facebook.

The Muscogee County Sheriff's Office has removed its Tuesday evening Facebook post that contained incorrect information stating internet music apps would be prohibited under the Georgia Hands-Free Act that takes affect July 1. Muscogee County Sheriff's Office Facebook

Once the GOHS received word of the error, they consulted other experts and took down the list.

The tip sheet has been amended to specify that drivers can activate a radio app before getting on the road.

The app must be connected to and controlled by the car stereo.

"The rule of thumb here is you can listen to your radio app as long as you don't touch your phone when driving on the road," according to Heads UP Georgia's website.

The law also prohibits holding your phone, tablet or computer while stopped at traffic lights.

"Nobody's trying to keep people from listening to music," Blackwood said. "We're trying to keep people from making videos of themselves driving at high rates of speed or taking selfies going down the road."

The Muscogee sheriff's office also took down their post, but the damage from other social media postings had already been done.

"It's been shared everywhere," Blackwood said.

The governor's safety agency posted a clarification Wednesday morning on Facebook stating: "DYK: Under the new law going into effect 7/1, streaming music from your phone while driving (Pandora, Spotify, etc) is allowed as long as your phone is still in a hands-free capacity, which means not held in your hand or supported by your body in any way."

DYK: Under the new law going into effect 7/1, streaming music from your phone while driving (Pandora, Spotify, etc) is...

Posted by Georgia GOHS on Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"The reason the law was sought in the first place was to keep the phone out of the hands of the driver," Blackwood said.

Drivers can put a finger on the phone to answer a call, but can't hold the device in their hand or support it by another other part of their body.

"The whole idea is to have your hands on the wheel," he said.

Many newer cars are equipped with Bluetooth technology for phone audio to come through the vehicle's radio and are operated through controls on the steering wheel.

Other hands-free devices are available for as little as $5, Blackwood said.

Some clip the phone on your visor, others attach the phone to your dashboard or windshield.

"If somebody's in the car by themselves, the speaker mode on the phone works pretty well," Blackwood said.

Ear buds and wireless headphones can be used in one ear so that drivers can still hear emergency vehicles, he said.

They can only be used for communication purposes, but not to listen to music or other entertainment.

Bluetooth devices that plug into a cigarette lighter or electrical outlet are available to broadcast the phone's audio over the car stereo system.

Under the new law, drivers cannot send text-based communications unless using voice-based communication.

They cannot send or read e-mails, social media posts or other internet content, nor can they watch a video unless it is for navigation purposes.

Recording videos also is not allowed unless the vehicle is equipped with a camera that continually records while driving.

Sheriff's offices and police departments also are spreading the word about the new restrictions coming in a little over three weeks.

Once the bill was passed, a rumor went rampant that there was a 30-day grace period.

That is not true, Blackwood said, but that is up to law enforcement.

"A lot of agencies will issue warnings but there's no provision in the bill for a grace period," he said.