Friday, June 2, 2023

Proposed ‘hands-free’ bill in House could make eating and drinking while driving illegal

Under a bill recently introduced by state legislators, "Hands Free NC", drivers would receive a $100 ticket for holding their phone while driving. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Under a bill recently introduced by state legislators, “Hands-Free NC”, drivers would receive a $100 ticket for holding their phone while driving.. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Many states have banned texting while driving, but North Carolina’s new bill goes further by also making it illegal to eat, drink, or apply makeup behind the wheel.

SOUTHEAST N.C. — Old habits die hard, but under a new bill currently making its way throughout the state legislature, North Carolina drivers would need to make some major changes to their habits.

House Bill 144, colloquially known as the “Hands Free NC Act,” would do more than just make it illegal to hold your phone while driving, it would create a new offense known as ‘distracted driving.’

Distracted driving would include a multitude of offenses that could land drivers in the hot seat, including eating or drinking, using a cellphone, or putting on makeup.

“Section 2 would create a new offense of ‘distracted driving’ which would prohibit operating a vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area while using the person’s hands to engage in distracted behavior that impairs or otherwise restricts the proper operation of the vehicle and results in operation that is not reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing. Distracted behavior would include the use of hand-held mobile telephones, use of an electronic device, use of grooming or cosmetic products, and consumption of food or beverages,” according to the state legislature’s bill summary.

Representative Deb Butler is listed as a sponsor to the bill but is reserving judgment of the bill until the final form is presented.

“The Bill has changed since originally introduced. As for my final vote, I am still waiting to see the final form of the Bill. Texting and driving is very dangerous and it is still happening in our state. Again, I am reserving decision on my vote until I see the final version,” Butler said.

Another sponsor on the bill is Representative Holly Grange who is also supportive of beefing up texting and driving laws — but does not think the final bill would include the eating and drinking language.

“Although I am not a primary sponsor, I am a co-sponsor of this bill. Distracted driving, more specifically the use of a cell phone and texting while driving causes many traffic accidents annually. Unfortunately, some of these accidents have resulted in fatalities. Because of this, I don’t feel current law is sufficient. I believe the portion of the bill regarding eating and drinking is or will be removed prior to the bill coming to the House floor,” Grange said.

If approved as written, violations of the new law, which would go into effect Dec. 1, 2019, would get drivers a fine of $100 and court fees — no license points would be applied though.

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