Rep. Jon Hardister Files Legislation to Restrict Cellphone Use While Driving
Raleigh, NC – Today Rep. Jon Hardister filed HB 144 – Hands Free NC – which would restrict the use of cellphones and other wireless communication devices while driving. Hardister joined Reps. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), John Torbett (R-Gaston) and Garland Pierce (D-Scotland) as a primary sponsor of the bill.
Motorist would be permitted to use a wireless device if it is affixed, mounted or installed on the vehicle so that calls could be answered, declined or ended with the single push of a button. Conversations would need to be conducted in a hands-free manner. The usage of GPS on wireless devices would also be permitted so long as the service was initiated before the vehicle was in operation.
“We need to take steps to make our roads safer,” Hardister said. “Although I am in favor of personal freedom, I am also in favor of protecting people’s safety, especially on our public roads and highways. The implementation of this law has the potential to save lives.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted research indicating that distracted driving, especially from cell phone use, can be just as dangerous or worse than drunk driving.
“If participating in dangerous behaviors such as texting on a hand-held device while driving is equivalent to drunk driving, why would those actions remain legal behind the wheel?” said Dave Parsons, AAA Carolinas President and CEO. “We support this proposed legislation and urge lawmakers to pass this bill to combat the distracted driving epidemic in an effort to save lives and make our roads safer for everyone.”
According to NC DOT, there were 123 fatalities in 2018 that were a result of distracted driving. AAA Carolinas believes the numbers are higher because the behavior is difficult to prove and motorists are reluctant to admit doing it. There were also 102 rear end fatal crashes last year and 733 lane departure fatalities. Many of the incidents may have been a result of distracted driving.
Since texting while driving is difficult to prove, the Hands Free NC bill will give law enforcement the ability to stop drivers simply for holding their phone, whereas in the past they would have to have a secondary reason like speeding or not wearing a seat belt. The bill carries a $100 fine for the first offense, $150 fine and insurance points for the second and $200 and insurance points for the third.
“We’d love to see all of the Carolinas become hands-free and are pleased that lawmakers in both states are considering this type of life-saving legislation,” added Parsons.
Last year Georgia became the 16th state to adopt hands-free legislation. Since the law went into effect on July 1, the state has already seen a positive impact on its roads.
Of the 15 other states with similar phone bans, 13 saw at least a 16 percent decrease in fatalities since their laws went into effect.
In addition to AAA Carolinas, the NC Highway Patrol has also endorsed this bill. Other notable endorsements are expected in the days to come.