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State Lawmakers Look To Tackle Distracted Driving

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Via pxhere

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers wants to establish new regulations regarding cell phones while driving a car. The Hands-Free NC Act would prohibit physically holding or supporting a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.

“I’m a Republican, and I’m generally skeptical of regulations and telling people what they can and cannot do. But we must have a delineation between liberty and personal safety,” said Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford).

Supporters believe the plan would deter distracted driving and cut down on accidents. According to AAA Carolinas, more than 120 people died in the state because of distracted driving last year. It is currently illegal in the state to text while driving, but law enforcement officials say proving that someone is texting, rather than on email or an app is difficult.

“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t see people driving down the Interstate 75, 80 miles per hour, looking down texting,” said North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, a Republican, at a press conference on Wednesday. Causey also said he believes the bill could result in a drop in insurance premiums.

Nearly 50 legislators in the state House have signed on to the proposal. It would also ban using a phone when stopped at a red light, which is currently acceptable. Backers of the bill say it would help to reduce distracted driving, deadly accidents, and in turn, insurance premiums. Using a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

If this bill becomes law, drivers would face a $100 fine for the first offense, and repeat offenders would receive insurance points. The Senate has not taken a position on the bill.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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