State Senators Want Tougher Distracted Driving Rules

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Three state senators hope to restore the Hands-Free North Carolina Act, making it illegal to use a hand-held device while driving in the state, according to the Charlotte Observer.

A version of the bill was approved in the House and sent to the Senate in May 2019, but was “greatly watered down.” The bill, as it stands, would ban the use of a hand-held phone or electronic device only if it causes, “distracted behavior that impairs or otherwise restricts” the driver and results in driving that is “careless, reckless or heedless.”

Now, three senators are offering an amendment to restore the bill’s language to ban the use of a hand-held phone while driving. Worked into the bill, are exceptions for emergencies along with permitting the use of Bluetooth devices, cell phone holders or other hands-free technology.

Under the proposed amendment, drivers caught violating the hands-free law will face a $100 fine for the first offense with higher fines and points on their driver’s license for subsequent violations, according to the account. Introduced in February 2019, the bill was inspired by a hands-free law enacted in Georgia in 2018, that has already reduced crashes and highway deaths caused by distracted driving, reported the Observer.

Tammy Garlock of Charlotte, whose 17-year-old son was killed while driving and attempting to make a phone call, said of the bill, “The original version was, in my opinion, very clean. You’re either doing this, or you’re not,” she said. “It was very logical. It was enforceable. And what we have now is just kind of a mess.”

After Garlock’s son passed away in 2008, the state made it illegal for drivers under 18 to talk on a hand-held cell phone and for drivers of any age to text and drive. But law enforcement agencies say enforcing the texting ban is difficult because drivers are still allowed to hold a phone to talk or get directions, according to the Observer.

“The bottom line is the current no-texting law is unenforceable,” Garlock said. “You can’t enforce it, so it’s not doing anything. And we need to do something.”

June 13, 2019

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