Raleigh, N.C. — As many North Carolinians hit the highways for the Easter holiday weekend, state lawmakers are thinking about ways to make those trips smoother and safer.
Lawmakers have filed several bills this year relating to travel and traffic on state highways, such as one that would levy a hefty fine for people who tie up the passing lane.
House Bill 827 would impose a $200 penalty for drivers who drive in the left lane on a highway and won't move over, even when cars are lined up behind them waiting to pass. Drivers who do that could be charged with a new infraction called "impeding the steady flow of traffic," even if they're traveling at the speed limit.
Another proposal, House Bill 856, would make road rage an aggravating factor in criminal cases. If someone is convicted of assault, he or she would face harsher penalties if the victim is the driver or passenger of another vehicle or bicycle – or a pedestrian – and the incident happens on a roadway.
A third measure, House Bill 831, would ban drivers from using a handheld phone or other communications device while operating a car – only hands-free devices would be permitted. The measure makes exceptions for emergency calls, as well as navigation units mounted on the dashboard and smartwatches, as long as the driver is just checking the time. Violators could be fined $50.
The proposal is named after Brian Garlock, a Charlotte high school student who died in an accident in 2008 after being distracted by his phone. Similar bills filed in past sessions have not received a vote.