State Distracted Driving Bill Advancing

Staff Report
CHARLOTTE – HB 144 titled “Hands-Free NC” advanced at the State House today as it moved out of the Judiciary Committee. However, the bill still needs more work to become law according to AAA Carolina.

“We support the concept of tackling distracted driving, which has become an epidemic on our roads and commend Rep. [Kevin] Corbin’s efforts,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA President of AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Although we would prefer stricter penalties in the bill including insurance points for subsequent violations, we know this is a step in the right direction and any legislation that aims to combat distracted driving is very important to us.”

House Bill 144 started as a bill banning the use of hand-held electronic devices, but recent additions expanded the bill to ban grooming, the use of cosmetic products and the consumption of food and beverage behind the wheel. Today the Judiciary Committee amended out that language, and now the bill includes distracted behavior as the use of a handheld device or “electronic device.”

“We hope to help lawmakers with the language of this bill in order to reach the May 9th crossover date to keep it alive,” added Wright.   

According to the press release, right now 18 states and D.C. have hands-free laws. Tennessee is close to becoming the 19th state, as it awaits the governor’s signature.

A recent AAA study revealed that 83 percent of motorists rated texting while driving a very serious threat to their safety, yet nearly 60 percent admitted to engaging in the dangerous behavior themselves, said the release.

According to NCDOT, in 2018 there were 123 fatalities coded as a result of distracted driving. However, AAA Carolinas believes the numbers are higher because the behavior is difficult to prove and motorists won’t readily admit to doing it. Last year, there were also 102 rear end fatal crashes and 733 lane departure fatalities. Rearend and lane departure collisions are a typical result of distracted driving.

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