Cell-phone ban for young drivers sent to North Carolina governor

| 7/24/2006

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

Senators voted 41-6 to approve the 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.

The bill, which the House approved on an 89-22 vote earlier this month, now heads to Gov. Mike Easley’s desk.

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.

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 age 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 (SB1289) 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.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor