Why is North Carolina stalling the 2021 Hands Free NC Act? What does this mean for drivers?

Author: Auger Law | May 21st, 2021

Did you know that over 18% of all car accidents in North Carolina involve a distracted driver?

man using a cell phone while driving

Distracted driving is a serious and growing threat to road safety in North Carolina. However, a new senate bill—known as the 2021 Hands-Free NC Act—is trying to help solve the problem. If passed, the 2021 Hands Free NC Act will make it illegal to use hand-held phones while driving. 

However, legislators predict the bill will be pushed out to 2022—another stumbling block in North Carolina’s multi-year attempt to ban hand-held cellphone use while driving. But why? With the bill’s clear safety benefits and a growing distracted driving problem in North Carolina, why is the 2021 Hands Free NC Act stalling?

Our experts break down the pros and cons of the bill, present the facts of distracted driving, and share tips to help keep you and your family safe on North Carolina’s roadways. 

Explaining the 2021 Hands Free NC Act

The 2021 Hands Free NC Act is not new. In fact, it’s an extension of a previous bill that was passed in 2019.

The 2019 Hands Free NC Act made it illegal to hold a phone only if it results in careless or reckless driving. Essentially, under this law in North Carolina, you are only given a traffic citation ticket for using your cellphone if you cause an accident, run a stop sign, or engage in some form of reckless behavior.

The 2021 Hands Free NC Act is trying to take this law one step further. If passed, the new law will not only make it illegal to hold your phone for calls and texts while driving, it will also outlaw having your phone “supported by your body”—meaning it will be illegal to cradle the phone on your shoulder or put it in your lap. 

The law will also make it illegal to record videos or post on social media while driving. As of now, these two things are still technically legal under current state law.

What are the pros of the 2021 Hands Free NC Act?

Any crackdown on distracted driving is a plus. With the ubiquity of smartphones and our digitally connected culture, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for drivers to put their phones away while driving. And the rise in accidents caused by distracted driving is showing the real danger in this.

Therefore, here are the pros of the 2021 Hands Free NC Act:

  • Roadways will become safer: In 12 of the 15 states with hands-free laws, traffic fatalities have decreased by an average of 15%.
  • Insurance rates could go down: With fewer accidents on roadways, the bill could potentially help lower car insurance rates.
  • Establishes a status quo baseline: Perhaps most notably, with this new bill, teenagers would learn how to drive with the understanding that it is illegal to use a cellphone when behind the wheel. This would ingrain in subsequent generations the seriousness of distracted driving and potentially “curb” a growing problem. 

Why is the 2021 Hands Free NC Act stalling?

As with everything, there are always two sides to the coin. Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the progress of multiple bills through the Senate and House. The state legislature has had to shift focus to relief and recovery bills that are greater in urgency. But the reasons behind the stalling of the 2021 Hands Free NC Act are not that simple.

Some groups are concerned that the passing of the 2021 Hands Free NC Act would introduce secondary issues. For example, what about using a cellphone for directions or as a GPS device? And, is the law requiring drivers to purchase a Bluetooth system or mounting device? Or is the law favoring individuals with newer model cars that come equipped with Bluetooth and hands free controls? 

Potential cons of the 2021 Hands Free NC Act are:

  • Unclear distinction between cellphone and GPS: Currently, the bill applies to cellphones—not GPS devices. This opens up a gray area of legality, especially when dealing with car accident cases.
  • Possible economic prejudice: Drivers of older model vehicles would have to purchase hands-free or Bluetooth systems to be compliant. This could be seen as legal bias.
  • Infringement on rights: We strive to provide our clients with unbiased information. Therefore, it’s worth noting that some individuals believe restricting hand-held cellphone use while driving is an infringement on personal rights.

Addressing the distracted driving issue in North Carolina

Regardless of whether or not you support or oppose the 2021 Hands Free NC Act, there is no denying the fact that distracted driving in North Carolina is becoming a major problem. Just look at the 2020 statistics from the Independent Insurance Association of North Carolina:

  • There were 43,987 total distracted driving crashes.
  • There were 608 injuries.
  • There were 157 deaths.

Injured in a distracted driving accident in North Carolina?

Auger & Auger is here to help

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver in North Carolina or South Carolina, the car accident lawyers at Auger & Auger can help. Our team has over 26 years of experience handling automobile accident claims and has helped thousands of injured victims and their families recover from serious accidents in North and South Carolina.

We know the frustration and worry you may be feeling after an accident, but our team can help take some of the weight off your shoulders. We are a compassionate group of attorneys who fight for our clients and their families. We pride ourselves on providing superior service, individual attention to every client, and aggressive representation.  We will treat you like family.

If you have any questions about whether or not you have a case, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Call 855-969-5730 for a free consultation

We offer FREE, no-obligation consultations to all potential clients. And, you don’t have to pay for anything unless we secure a financial settlement for you. Call 855-969-5730 now to schedule your complimentary meeting with our experienced North Carolina and South Carolina car accident attorneys.

Posted In: Distracted Driving