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North Carolina unable to enforce texting while driving ban

Texting while driving is a very dangerous behavior and contributes to car accidents every year in North Carolina. Between 2011 and 2012, more than 1,500 car accidents were caused by distracted driving in North Carolina, which includes accidents caused drivers using their cellphones and texting.

Even though the state banned texting while driving in 2009, these types of car accidents are still occurring throughout the state. Why? Law enforcement officials say that it is too difficult to enforce the ban against texting while driving.

The current law in North Carolina makes it illegal to read text messages or emails as well as send text messages or emails to someone else. The law does still allow drivers to read or send text messages or emails if the vehicle is stopped at a stoplight or stop sign. Dialing a phone number is also not illegal under the law.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol reported that they issued 3,086 citations for texting while driving since 2009. The N.C. Highway Patrol thinks this number should be higher but it is difficult to prove that a driver was texting or emailing while driving because drivers do not have to show troopers their cellphones if they are pulled over. They also said that drivers have enough time to change or delete text messages before the trooper arrives at their vehicle.

Unless law enforcement officers see a driver physically using their cellphone to read or send text messages or emails, they have to depend on drivers to admit what they were doing to usually issue a citation, the Highway Patrol said. Otherwise, drivers often say they were just dialing a number or looking at their phone but not texting or sending an email.

The Highway Patrol thinks the law is too difficult to enforce and does not benefit the public as much as it could if the law was revised to allow police officers more flexibility in citing drivers for texting while driving.

Some North Carolina legislators agree with law enforcement that the law is not as beneficial in stopping a dangerous driving behavior. Legislators said that they would like to meet with patrol troopers to discuss the issues with the current law and what ways it could be revised to try and reduce the number of car accidents caused by texting drivers.

Source: WSOC TV, "Troopers explain difficulty enforcing texting-while-driving ban," Natalie Pasquarella, Feb. 7, 2013

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