While the law here in North Carolina expressly classifies texting while driving as a primary offense, meaning motorists can be pulled over and ticketed solely for this dangerous conduct, there is no disputing that distracted driving continues to take a devastating toll on our roads and highways.
Indeed, statistics show that distracted driving was behind 54,279 car accidents here in the Tar Heel State in 2016, resulting in 26,999 injuries and 177 fatalities. As if this wasn't discouraging enough, almost 3,000 texting while driving citations were issued by state law enforcement officials during the same time frame.
In recognition of grim numbers like these and the fact that April has been named Distracted Driving Awareness Month by the National Safety Council, new legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly that, if passed, would enhance the scope of our state's distracted driving laws.
Specifically, Sen. Jeff Tarte (R- Mecklenburg) introduced Senate Bill 393 last week, which calls for North Carolina to join the ranks of 14 other states in banning the use of hand-held communication, meaning that outside of emergencies, motorists would only be able to use mobile electronic devices in hands-free mode.
While some might question the need for this measure, named in honor of a Charlotte teen killed in a car accident while using a hand-held cell phone back in 2008, consider the following:
- The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has determined that distracted driving -- particularly when it involves the use of cell phones -- is just as dangerous as impaired driving.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that as many as eight people lose their lives in distracted driving-related crashes every day.
It remains to be seen whether the legislation gains the necessary traction. When the same legislation was introduced two years ago, it failed to advance.
Stay tuned for updates ...
If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a distracted driver, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.