Cell-phone ban for young drivers advances in North Carolina

| Monday, July 17, 2006

The North Carolina House has approved a bill that would require young drivers in the state to hang up their cell phones and drive.

House lawmakers voted 89-22 Wednesday, July 12, to approve a bill that would prohibit drivers under age 18 from talking on any cell phone, hand-held or “hands-free,” while behind the wheel. Violators would face a $25 fine and a six-month extension to violators’ graduated licenses.

No additional insurance points would be added for an infraction and teens would be allowed to call parents, their spouse or make emergency phone calls.

The bill – SB1289 – has been sent back to the Senate for approval of changes. If approved there, it would head to Gov. Mike Easley’s desk.

Opponents say it’s unfair to single out young people when drivers of all ages can be distracted by phones and other things. Others say teens should still be allowed to use hands-free devices.

Supporters of the measure point out motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for North Carolina teens ages 15 to 17. According to recent studies, motorists who use cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in a vehicle collision, The Associated Press reported.

“The bill is about giving teenagers a chance to grow up,” Sen. William Purcell, D-Laurinburg, recently told The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. “This bill is about safety.”

Currently, about 10 states forbid young drivers to use phones while behind the wheel. Only Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have bans on all drivers from using hand-held phones.

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