A bill that calls for the use of handheld phones while driving to be made illegal has been submitted to the House in North Carolina in response to mounting traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving.

Representative Kevin Corbin (R- Macon) filed HB 144, titled “Hands Free NC”. The bill is also sponsored by Representatives John Torbett (R-Gaston), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Garland Pierce (D-Scotland).

AAA Carolinas supports the proposed legislation that would make it illegal to use handheld communication devices, such as cell phones, while driving. This follows research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that reveals distracted driving, especially cell phone use, can be just as dangerous, or even worse than drunk driving.

“If participating in dangerous behaviors such as texting on a hand-held device while driving is equivalent to drunk driving, why would those actions remain legal behind the wheel?” said Dave Parsons, AAA Carolinas President and CEO. “We support this proposed legislation and urge lawmakers to pass this bill to combat the distracted driving epidemic in an effort to save lives and make our roads safer for everyone.”

The Hands Free NC bill would give law enforcement the ability to stop drivers simply for holding their phone, whereas in the past they would need to have a secondary reason like speeding or not wearing a seat belt.

The bill carries a $100 fine for the first offense, $150 fine and insurance points for the second and $200 and insurance points for the third.

A hands-free bill in South Carolina, HB 3355, has passed a subcommittee and full committee and will be debated in the House in the coming weeks.