On Tuesday, May 7, the Hands Free NC Act, House Bill 144, overwhelmingly cleared the North Carolina House. North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey is now encouraging the Senate to make a similar move. The Senate reconvenes Monday, May 13.
“I look forward to this bill being heard by senators, so they can understand the data that shows hands-free legislation has saved lives in other states and it can save lives in ours,” said Commissioner Causey. “The majority of North Carolina residents who have been polled support this bill. I encourage our state senators to hear their voices.”
In addition to saving lives, Commissioner Causey adds that HB144 has another benefit – holding down the cost of auto insurance premiums.
“Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of automobile accidents, along with speeding and driving while intoxicated. Unless we take corrective action now, we’ll see accidents increase that will take our loved ones and drive automobile insurance rates higher and higher,” Causey said.
The bipartisan bill, titled “Hands Free NC,” bans the use of hand-held cellphones and other wireless devices while driving. It does, however, allow the use of a Bluetooth or Apple watch. It was sent to the Senate on a 92-23 vote, but it’s not clear when this bill will be discussed in Senate committees.
“I applaud the House’s wide support of HB 144 and predict safer highways if passed into law,” said the primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kevin Corbin, R-Macon. “I encourage constituents to contact their state senator to show their support of hands-free legislation that will ultimately make our highways safer.”
Another bill sponsor, Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland says “Hands Free NC” is another tool in the state’s toolbox to help law enforcement keep our highways safe for traveling motorists.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia now prohibit the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. Georgia’s hands-free law became effective July 1, 2018. According to Georgia’s State patrol figures, in the six months since the law went into effect, traffic fatalities fell at least 7 percent.
If HB144 becomes law, it would be effective Dec. 1. For the first six months, police would issue warning tickets for distracted driving offenses.