“There should be a law,” the saying goes.
Sometimes that’s true, sometimes not. But the law we’re talking about today brings to mind a different version of that saying:
“There’s shouldn’t be a need for this law.”
Sadly, there is, and it regards a topic we’d wager everyone has weighed in on at one time or another: Distracted drivers.
Specifically, those drivers who can’t seem to get behind the wheel without a cellphone in their hands.
Soldiers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and lion tamers aside, driving is probably the most dangerous things most of us will do in our lives. Guiding a ton or two of metal around at 60 mph comes with a few risks: The possibility of mechanical failure, bad weather conditions making the road bad, and the other guy doing 60 mph headed your way.
If the other guy is texting the risk factor rises dramatically.
North Carolina’s “Hands Free NC” bill, HB 144, isn’t law yet but has been making progress in the General Assembly.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation says there were 123 fatalities last year as a result of distracted driving. AAA Carolinas says it thinks the number is higher, in part because distracted driving is a difficult offense to prove. AAA points to the fact that 2018 saw 733 lane departure fatalities and 102 rear end collision fatalities. Both types of those crashes are commonly associated with distracted driving.
A recent AAA study shows 83 percent of motorists said texting while driving is a serious threat to safety. Ironically, the study also showed 60 percent text while drive.
HB 144 is a work in progress, and turned into a bit of a runaway train itself. Starting out as a bill banning the use of handheld electronic devices, it got the “Christmas tree” treatment; measures were added to ban the use of cosmetic products, grooming and consuming food and beverages while driving.
Note to legislators: If you want a commuter uprising, a really good place to start is yanking the coffee cups out of the hands of drivers.
We don’t know what the final iteration looks like. Financial penalties are likely and will likely rise after the first offense. Insurance points may be added.
If North Carolina passes legislation, it will follow in the footsteps of 18 other states.
It’s sad that our own irresponsibility has spurred a call to action.
We’d do well to have followed the advice of the old bumper sticker.
“Hang up and drive.”