Hands-Free in NC
The current North Carolina texting while driving law is “practically unenforceable” according to state law enforcement and some legislators are moving to change that in the 2019 session.
Advocates for a tighter ban on electronic devices behind the wheel, including AAA Carolinas, are urging North Carolina lawmakers to pass a bill mirroring Georgia’s recent “Hands Free” bill. This bill essentially bans all motorists from driving with a phone in their hand or with a phone touching any part of them. The bill obviously prohibits drivers from writing and reading text messages/emails, watching videos while on the road and checking social media. It allows for motorists to compose texts and talk on the phone via hands-free Bluetooth technology.
Law enforcement has recognized that small monetary punishments aren’t enough to prevent this violation, so a new layer has been added to the bill that includes an increase of license points for each offense.
As the 2019 legislative session approaches, groups across North Carolina are actively pushing their elected officials to stand behind this bill, which will be introduced by Senator Jeff Tarte.
The Hands-Free North Carolina coalition is holding four town-hall meetings across the state to rally behind this bill and generate support from local communities. The meeting was held in Lake Norman, NC on September 12 and AAA Carolinas spoke in favor of the proposed legislation by citing distracted driving statistics and studies done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety on behalf of the countless victims who have lost their lives to this epidemic.
State senators and representatives also attended the town hall. Senator Tarte talked about the bill he plans to propose at the beginning of the 2019 session and Senator Carson (GA) talked about the process he went through in getting a hands-free bill passed in his state of Georgia, which was overwhelmingly approved by the committee from members of all political backgrounds.
One of the biggest factors – aside from saving lives – that was emphasized in the need for stricter laws is the skyrocketing cost of auto insurance. Because law enforcement is not able to officially cite distracted driving in a wreck, (unless the driver specifically tells them they were distracted), there is no one at fault for insurance purposes and the damage is covered by the general fund. With this happening so often, rates are going up across the board to cover the costs.
To follow along with the progress of the Hands Free bill in North Carolina and to hear what was said in the first town hall meeting, see the coalition’s Facebook page. The second town hall meeting is scheduled for October 3 at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, NC and is open to the general public.