North Carolina Troopers Crack Down on Distracted Driving

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol takes distracted driving seriously, as it demonstrated last month in the Twin Counties area.

North Carolina Troopers patrolled stretches of I-95 to observe and record instances of distracted driving and to ticket drivers who were violation of the state's texting while driving ban, as well as those guilty of careless or reckless driving. Troopers issued a total of 62 tickets over the two-day period, including five for texting while driving.

The State Highway Patrol intends to use the data to develop educational programs for the public. While troopers were able to write tickets for drivers texting while driving, they were only able to record instances of other distracted driving behaviors, like eating, grooming, talking on a cell phone and reading since these behaviors are not covered in North Carolina's distracted driving laws.

Troopers have expressed frustration with current North Carolina distracted driving law, which only targets texting, e-mailing or Internet use while driving for adult motorists, since legal behaviors like dialing a number can look like texting. All cell phone use is banned for drivers under age 18 and for school bus drivers.

Since passing current distracted driving laws in 2009, the North Carolina legislature has been reluctant to take up additional distracted driving legislation. Last year, a bill that would have banned hand-held cell phone use while driving was abandoned due to lack of support in subcommittee.

The relative silence on the dangers of distracted driving by the state legislature ignores a growing body of literature on the negative impact distracted driving has on road safety. A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 16 percent of all fatal crashes and 20 percent of all injury-causing car crashes involved reports of distracted driving. A University of Utah study found that driving while using a cellphone -either hand-held or hands-free - results in delayed reaction times equivalent to those caused by a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration.

To reduce these numbers, it is important that states, including North Carolina, reexamine current distracted driving laws and debate how to improve them. If you have been involved in a crash caused by a distracted driver please consult an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney.