O-Pinion

Hang up and drive!

Distracted driving kills 3,000 people in the U.S. each year, and injures many thousands more.
Distracted driving kills 3,000 people in the U.S. each year, and injures many thousands more. 2013 AP FILE PHOTO

Get off the phone while driving – and this time, North Carolina means it.

North Carolina already has a law that bans texting while driving. But it’s hard to enforce, because the driver can just tell the police officer he wasn’t texting.

Now Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Republican from Cornelius, has had enough. He filed a bill this week that bans holding a phone almost entirely while driving. No texting, no e-mailing, no talking, no listening, no playing games, no looking at photos. No-thing.

You could still check the scores while sitting at a red light. And texting or talking is OK if you do it hands-free.

But pretty much everything else (other than emergency calls to authorities) is a Class 2 misdemeanor carrying a $100 fine plus costs of court. A second offense within three years or a third offense within five years gets you a point on your license, and the higher insurance premiums that come with that.

Tarte’s bill is dubbed the Brian Garlock Act, named for a 17-year-old from Charlotte who died in 2008 when he collided with two pickup trucks, distracted by a phone call he was making as he left his summer job in Pineville. Garlock’s mother, Tammy, supports the bill. “If we just save one child, one family, one mom doesn’t have to go through this, then Brian didn’t lose his life in vain,” she told WSOC-TV last year.

More than 3,000 people die in the United States each year due to a distracted driver, the CDC says.

Tarte’s bill is needed. Texting and doing other things on phones while driving has become widespread, endangering everyone. Critics will suggest that if we need this bill, then we need bills banning eating french fries and changing the radio station and checking your lipstick in the mirror. But smartphone use has reached such proportions, and is so distracting, that it needs its own specific ban.

What do you think?

-- Taylor Batten

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