Rep. Kevin Corbin owns The Corbin Agency in Franklin, North Carolina, and Blue Ridge Insurance Group in Seneca, SC. Kevin’s wife, Beth, is active the management of the agencies. He is in his second term in the NC House representing the people of District 120, which includes Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon Counties.
As a life-long resident of Western North Carolina, and a sixth generation Macon County native (where I live today is a stone’s throw from where John and Nancy Corbin resided when they arrived here in 1830), I am genetically predisposed to be skeptical of any proposals that appear to me to be a governmental overreach, and I am distrustful of any public policy proposal that treads upon personal freedoms without any real public safety benefit.
My personal and political
disposition is definitively conservative, coming pretty close to falling within
the libertarian portion of the ideological spectrum.
I would not support, let alone
sponsor, any highway safety legislation that I did not feel was based on clear,
objective and compelling evidence proving it was absolutely necessary to
effectively protect the public from a very real peril.
After prayerful consideration last
year, and having had a number of conversations with the leadership of IIANC and
fellow independent insurance agents from around the state, as well as with many
folks from within the law enforcement community, highway safety advocacy organizations,
and families who’ve experienced the grief and sorrow of losing a loved one in a
distracted driving accident, I was convinced the time had come for our state
legislature to take action to combat this unsafe driving behavior on North
Carolina roads and highways.
I checked the data from NC DOT on
distracted driving in our own state, and found it’s now
the cause of 1-in-5 car crashes on North Carolina roads and highways – in 2017,
that was 55,000 accidents that left more than 28,000 people injured and ending
the lives of 152 people. And, these numbers have been trending upward in recent
these are pretty compelling statistics, I wanted to be sure that legislation
was truly needed. So, earlier this year I reached out to Representative
John Carson of Georgia, the Republican state legislator who championed
hands-free legislation in that state last year.
He told me he calls this issue is the drunk driving for our generation of legislators – it’s not alcohol and drugs at the root of this problem, but rather the rise and proliferation of smart phones and their all-too-easy access to the internet and social media that’s today’s driving impairment.
Rep. Carson made a strong case for their
experience as a guide for us here in North Carolina – after only six months in
effect, the Georgia hands-free law resulted in an 11% decrease in the number of
auto accidents in that state; he pointed out that of the 16 states that have
one with some form of a hands-free law, all have experienced a decrease in
accidents, injuries and fatalities on their roads.
Given all this, I was convinced –
House Bill 144 Hands Free NC Act was introduced on February 21 with forty-six
sponsors, a balanced mix of Democrats and Republicans.
The bill simply prohibits a person
from holding a phone in their hand, or supporting it with their body, while
driving a vehicle. We know there are many forms of distracted driving (like
eating, or dealing with rambunctious children in the car) but with this
legislation we go at the one form of it – having the phone in your hand – that
can be dealt with in a practical, enforceable way.
Our goal with House Bill 144 is to
change behaviors. The bill gives motorists one ‘do over,’ with the first
offense resulting in just a $100 fine – it’s only if a person has a second
offense within three years that they get an insurance point. We wanted to
create enough of an economic disincentive that folks will self-regulate and not
engage in this dangerous driving behavior at all, much in the same way our
tougher drunk driving laws and the associated economic impact from repeat
offenses have worked to discourage that behavior.
The goal of the Hands Free NC Act
is not to have hundreds of tickets written, it’s to save hundreds of lives by
encouraging folks to make the right choice and drive hands-free.
And, the bill also makes the
effective date for our hands-free law January 1, 2020, with only warning
tickets written for the first six months – plenty of time to educate North
Carolina’s motoring public about the new law before any financial penalties are
At our kick-off press conference on February 27 at the Legislative Building, the bill sponsors were joined by a number of families who have lost a loved one in a distracted driving accident, representatives of law enforcement, the President of the AAA Carolina’s Traffic Safety Foundation, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, who offered his full support for House Bill 144.
Also on hand at the press
conference were IIANC Board Chair Mark Rice, Vice Chair Steve Chalk, National
Director Bobby Salmon, and Governmental Affairs Committee member Deirdre
Rushin, a strong showing of IIANC’s support for our hands-free legislation.
As of now, House Bill 144 has
passed out of the House Transportation Committee, is waiting to be heard by the
House Judiciary Committee, followed by the Insurance Committee, Finance
Committee, and the Rules Committee before it goes to the full House for a vote.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so I can think of no better time than now for the NC General Assembly to get to work on House Bill 144 and get it passed out of both the House and Senate, and on to the Governor to be signed into law. As an IIANC member, I am proud of all the support my association has given this legislation already, and I know I can count on my fellow independent insurance agents all across the state to contact their elected legislators going forward, to encourage them to support House Bill 144 and make North Carolina Hands Free!
Click HERE for a list of all the members of the House Judiciary Committee. You are encouraged to reach out to each with a call or e-mail – thank the sponsors of HB 144 for their support of a hands-free law in North Carolina, and ask the other members to vote YES on House Bill 144 Hands Free NC Act.