HANDS FREE NC.

View NCGA Bill Details2021
Senate Bill 20 (Public) Filed Wednesday, January 27, 2021
AN ACT MAKING IT UNLAWFUL TO USE A WIRELESS COMMUNICATION DEVICE WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE ON A PUBLIC STREET, HIGHWAY, OR PUBLIC VEHICULAR AREA.
Intro. by Burgin, Corbin, Woodard.

Status: Ref To Com On Rules and Operations of the Senate (Senate action) (Jan 28 2021)

Bill History:

S 20

Bill Summaries:

  • Summary date: Jan 27 2021 - More information

    Titles the act "The Hands Free NC Act."

    Repeals GS 20-137.3 (pertaining to unlawful use of a mobile phone while operating a vehicle by persons under 18 years of age), GS 20-137.4 (pertaining to unlawful use of a mobile phone while operating a school bus), and GS 20-137.4A (pertaining to unlawful use of mobile telephone for text messaging or electronic mail while operating a vehicle). 

    Enacts new GS 20-137.3A as follows. Prohibits operating a motor vehicle (1) with a wireless communication device in the person's hand, (2) while holding or supporting a wireless communication device with the person's body, not including wearable technology that does not require physical exertion to support, (3) while watching a video or movie or communicating by video on a wireless communication device, or (4) while texting on a wireless communication device. Defines wireless communication device as (1) a cell phone, personal digital assistant, electronic device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, smartwatch, broadband personal communication device, electronic game, and portable computing device or (2) a device through which personal wireless services, as defined in specified federal law, are transmitted. Defines operating a motor vehicle as operating a motor vehicle on a public street, highway, or public vehicular area, excluding where vehicle is off, or to the side of, a public street, highway, or public vehicular area in a location where the motor vehicle can safely remain stationary. Defines texting to mean entering text into, or reading text from, a wireless communication device. Sets out exceptions to the prohibition when (1) the device is used to communicate an emergency to one of the specified public safety entities; or (2) the device is used in the performance of official duties by one of six specified classes of public safety officers, public utilities vehicle operators, and radio response operators. Prohibits persons under 18 from operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device unless for following the recommended route by an electronic navigation system or communicating in an emergency situation, as specified. Specifies that the statute does not prohibit the use of equipment installed by the manufacturer and integrated into the vehicle by any person while operating a motor vehicle. First offenses (for a person with no prior or no offense in the prior 36 months) are an infraction punishable by a $100 fee with no insurance points. Second offenses (where a person is guilty of a first offense within the previous 36 months) are an infraction with a $150 fine and insurance points. Third and subsequent offenses (where a person is guilty of two or more offenses within the previous 36 months) are an infraction with a $200 fine and insurance points. Violations by school bus operators are subject to the penalties above but the person will be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor instead of an infraction. Clarifies that the statute does not authorize seizure of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle. Prohibits local governments from passing ordinances regulating this topic. Directs the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Public Instruction to incorporate in its driver education and licensing programs instructions designed to encourage compliance with the statute and requirements and penalties specified by law. 

    Amends GS 58-36-75 to require the North Carolina Rate Bureau to assign one insurance point under the Safe Drive Incentive Plan for a person convicted for a second offense and two insurance points for a person convicted for a third or subsequent offense.

    Amends GS 20-11 as follows. Prohibits limited learner's permit holders and limited provisional license holders from using a wireless communication devices while operating a motor vehicle (was, prohibits the use of a mobile telephone or other additional technology associated with a mobile telephone). Amends the criteria to be met in order to obtain such permits and licenses to require that the individual have not been convicted of a violation of new GS 20-137.3A (was, a violation of GS 20-137.3, which makes it unlawful for a person under age 18 to use a mobile phone while driving). Makes additional conforming changes. Makes the failure to comply with restrictions regarding the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle an infraction punishable under GS 20-137.3A (was, failure to comply with the restriction regarding the use of a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle in an infraction punishable by a $25 fine).  

    Applies to offenses committed on or after July 1, 2021. Requires issuing only warning tickets for the first six months. Provides a savings clause for offenses committed before the effective date of the act. 


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