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By Erin Smith

A bill filed in the North Carolina General Assembly on Thursday will make it illegal to use a cellphone and drive in North Carolina, if it is approved.

North Carolina House Bill 144, Hands Free NC, will make it illegal to operate a vehicle with a wireless communication device in your hands, while watching a movie on a wireless device, or while texting on a wireless device.  The bill is sponsored by Representatives Corbin, Torbett, Harvester and Pierce.

The penalties if you are caught will be $100 for a first offense, a second offense will incur a fine of $150 and insurance points and third offense will incur a fine of $200 and insurance points.

NC Representative William Brisson, who represents Bladen County in the North Carolina General Assembly, said, “I agree with the bill, but there are not enough penalties.”

He stated that the bill needed stiffer penalties in order for it to make a difference.  Brisson explained his position further by stating the General Assembly adopted a bill several years ago regarding talking on a cell phone while driving. He said the bill did not make that much of a difference in drivers using their phones while driving.

“I think there is more texting going on than conversations these days,” said Brisson.

He said, ultimately, it will be up to law enforcement to enforce the bill if it is approved.

Brisson said he sees people driving and using their cell phones every day especially on the interstate highways.

Brisson said the bill will still need to go through the judiciary before it will be voted on by the entire NC House. He said the bill is a good start for Representatives to use to craft a tougher bill.

Brisson said until the penalties are severe enough, no one really pays any attention to it.

The General Assembly toughened an existing bill dealing with motorists speeding in school zones. Since the General Assembly added tougher penalties for speeders, motorists have begun to slow down and properly observe the school zones, said Brisson.

He also noted there needs to be stiffer penalties for those who pass stopped school buses, as well. Brisson attributed that to distracted driving.

“They’re just in too big of a hurry,” said Brisson of North Carolina’s drivers.


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