Aubie Knight, CEO of Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina, said the trade group supports a bill in the state Legislature that would prohibit drivers from using phones unless they are part of a hands-free system or resting in a cradle. The Brian Garlock Act, named for a Charlotte teenager who was killed in a crash in 2008 while trying to use his cellphone while driving, has languished since it was introduced in 2015.
Knight noted that while it has been illegal to text and drive in North Carolina since 2009, law enforcement officers say it's difficult to enforce the ban while people are still allowed to hold their phones to talk on them.
Jenny Burke of the National Safety Council, a private nonprofit organization, says studies show that hands-free phone calls are just as distracting as talking with a phone to your ear. And, Burke said, in-dash screens that include maps, online music systems and access to the internet have emerged as new sources of hands-free distractions.
The basic problem, Burke said, is multitasking by drivers. People feel compelled to be doing something else while they're driving, whether it's answering a text, eating lunch or putting on their makeup.
"You are not focusing on the road," she said. "You are focusing on all these other things you're trying to get done."
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