Connect with us

The Nation

North Carolina considers hand-held phone ban while driving

Published

on

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia now prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A new Georgia law began last summer. (FOTOSEARCH)

RALEIGH, N.C. — With smartphones now ever-present, North Carolina lawmakers are revisiting distracted driving laws and on Tuesday advanced a prohibition on hand-held cellphone use they say will reduce accidents and potentially rein in insurance rates.

The House Transportation Committee overwhelmingly backed legislation to bar all motorists from holding wireless devices with their hands or against their body while operating their cars. Drivers would also not be allowed to text or watch videos. First-time violators would face $100 fines, growing to $200 with additional penalties on insurance records for repeat offenses.

There would be exceptions for all in emergencies, and adults could use hand-held phones sitting on stands or in drink holders for a call if pressing only one button to start or end it. Drivers under 18 would be barred from using a device except to follow a preset navigation system route.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia now prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A new Georgia law began last summer.

North Carolina has had a prohibition on texting or emailing while driving since 2009, and drivers under 18 can’t use mobile phones at all. But backers of the legislation say a stronger ban is needed in light of automobile crashes, deaths and injuries related to distracted driving. Adults also could no longer make calls or texts while idling at a stop light, as is currently allowed.

“I tend to not be very excited about regulation, telling people what they can and cannot do,” said Rep. Jon Hardister, a Guilford County Republican and one of nearly four dozen sponsors of the bill. “But liberty has to stop whenever your actions put others in danger, especially when it puts their lives in danger.”

Tammy Garlock’s 17-year-old son died in a 2008 accident in suburban Charlotte that she later learned likely happened as he tried to make a cellphone call. She told House members the current cellphone laws are unenforceable because it’s difficult to prove a violation.

“There are more drivers on the road than ever, and there are more people focused on the road on (their phones) instead of the primary task at hand,” Garlock said. “The only way to enforce a ban on doing things other than talking is to get the phone out of the hand.”

But some lawmakers said there are already laws dealing with reckless or careless driving, and that preventing motorists from holding their device didn’t eliminate the real distraction.

“The problem is the conversation. Are we as a legislature willing to legislate no phone calls while you’re driving?” asked Rep. Michael Speciale, a Craven County Republican and one of two committee members voting against recommending the bill. “And if we’re not willing to do that, then we’re not going to solve the problem.”

Lobbyists for the state’s independent insurance agents’ association, General Motors and state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey spoke in support of the bill. George Robinson, who represented Causey, said fewer accidents due to the law could result in lower personal injury expenses and insurance costs.

The bipartisan legislation still must go through several more House committees before reaching the floor. It also would have to pass the Senate before heading to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.

Jennifer Smith with the nonprofit group StopDistractions.org said Georgia has seen positive results since the new law took effect there, including a 22 percent drop in phone swiping or typing by motorists, based on telecommunications data. In 13 of 15 other states where the law has been implemented, traffic fatalities fell 16 percent within two years of a ban, according to the Hands Free North Carolina coalition.

In North Carolina, distracted driving contributed to 49,643 crashes in 2012, growing to 54,302 in 2016, while related fatalities increased from 140 to 177 during the same period, according to the state Department of Transportation. While fatalities declined in 2017 to 152, crashes largely stayed flat. DOT said the extent of distracted driving may be greater since the factor is self-reported.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Nation

Lane Departures: Why would California lawmakers saddle trucking with the ABC test?

Published

on

 

Well, he said he’d do it.

If you look elsewhere on this website, you’ll see a story I did about a week ago about AB5, a bill passed by the California Senate on September 10 into the waiting arms of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had long telegraphed he was looking forward to signing it.

Yesterday, he did it. And come the new year, trucking is going to have to live with it.

AB5 — the full name is the “Employees and Independent Contractors” bill — is ostensibly intended to prevent employers from exploiting workers and skirting expenses by relying on “independent contractors” to make their businesses run instead of hiring full-fledged employees, who come with all kinds of nasty baggage like guaranteed minimum wages, overtime and payroll taxes, mandatory breaks, insurance and other horrific profit reducers.

The bill got off the ground in the wake of a court case last year in which a delivery company called Dynamex was determined to have improperly reclassified its workers as independent contractors in order to save money.  In making the decision, the court applied what is known as the ABC test, which presumes all workers should be classified as employees unless they meet three criteria.

Like the court case, the bill, which will codify the ABC test across the state, seems to have been at least in spirit aimed at companies like Dynamex that are part of that there so-called “gig economy” all the young folks are so hopped up about. Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are almost always mentioned as Public Enemies 1A and 1B of supposed independent contractor charlatans.

The problem with AB5, its critics say, is it proposes to perform an appendectomy with a chainsaw, ripping into industries that have long-established business models that extensively use independent contractors to the satisfaction of all involved.

A great big example would be trucking, because it appears the ABC test would prevent carriers from contracting with owner-operators or smaller fleets in California. I’ll let you imagine the consequences if that’s true.

If you’ve read the article, or your planning to read the article, I’d like to apologize in advance because as I’ve been learning about this AB5 business, I have some lingering questions that I could not answer. I have calls out to a couple of experts on the legal and logistical nuances. Unfortunately, experts don’t observe journalistic deadlines.

But then, I figured, this story is going to be around a while, so we can keep building on what we know. I may have answers to some of these questions by the time you read this. Or maybe you will be able to provide some of the answers. I mean, you don’t need to have a title or a degree or be part of a think tank to know a thing or two.

My first question is this: They didn’t pull this ABC test out of thin air. A majority of states already use the test in some manner on matters of job status. California’s application of ABC is based on Massachusetts’ broad, strict use of the test. So, hasn’t trucking had to contend with this standard there and in in other states already? I haven’t heard reports of empty store shelves in Massachusetts. Is there some simple workaround already in existence just waiting for cooler heads to prevail?

Second, from what I gather, ABC has had its critics for as long as it’s existed. Is it just the sheer size of California’s economy that makes this case so important or somehow different?

I’m going to go way out on a limb and say “probably.” Last year, California’s economy outgrew that of Great Britain. If it were an independent country, California would have the fifth-largest economy in the world. And what happens in California rarely stays in California. The state has a major influence on the rest of the nation.

California’s economy is closing in on $3 trillion a year. Real estate, finance, the entertainment industry and that nest of tech behemoths in Silicon Valley are responsible for big chunks of that.

And let’s not forget agriculture. California ranches and farms reaped $50 billion in receipts in 2017. That’s a lot of food, a lot of truckloads.

California also has some of the nation’s largest seaports. The Port of Long Beach alone sees about $200 billion in cargo a year, with 11,000 truckloads leaving the port each day. And most of what doesn’t go by truck from there eventually winds up on a truck somewhere inland.

Add it all up, and trucking is a huge player in the California economic machine. Why would lawmakers want to strip its gears with this law? Some lawmakers are even on record saying they are worried about what this could do to the industry. Then why are they doing it?

The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, is not some gung-ho rookie lawmaker. She’s in her third term, and she already has made a national name for herself as a champion of the working class with several pieces of legislation she has supported.

AB5 could fit into that collection quite nicely. But it isn’t a trophy she needs in a hurry. She won her last two reelection campaigns by about a 3-1 margin.

And she’s also been around enough that she surely understands that despite its best intentions, the broad-stroke, one-size-fits-all approach AB5 takes will do more harm than good to many industries, including trucking.

In fact, she’s as much as said so. Gonzalez has already indicated that once the bill becomes law, she’d be open to making amendments and granting exemptions.

So why wait? The bill already grants exemptions to real estate, to doctors and dentists. Even newspaper delivery people got a last-minute, one-year exemption.

The California Trucking Association and the Western States Trucking Association pushed for an exemption. Dozens of truck drivers testified in Sacramento. And you have to think state legislators are at least vaguely aware of what goes on in their own districts.

So, they could grasp the importance of the guy who throws a newspaper in their driveway from a passing car at 4 a.m., but not of the people who deliver, like, everything everywhere all the time?

We all know how long fixing bad legislation can take. Even if they put it on the “fast track,” how much damage will occur before trucking can get an exemption?

I did hear back from one legal expert on the matter. Greg Feary, president and managing partner at Scopelitus, Garvin, Light, Hansen and Feary LLC, said there are a couple of cases in Ninth Circuit Court that could spell relief for the trucking industry. Even so, the legal system can move almost as slowly as the legislative system. He estimates California truckers are going to have to live with AB5 for at least a year.

Questions abound. I’m not looking forward to some of the answers.

Continue Reading

The Nation

Trucking submarine style in Texas

Published

on

Texas is getting hit hard with flooding.  This takes it to new levels!


Continue Reading

The Nation

Flooding in Texas – That cab’s gonna be a bit damp!

Published

on

KHOU reporter Melissa Correa happened to be on scene and captured this video.  Another motorist grabbed a hammer and rope and saved the drivers life.

Continue Reading

Trending