Troopers crack down on distracted drivers
Posted February 1, 2012
Smithfield, N.C. — Starting Wednesday, state troopers will begin cracking down on drivers distracted from the road.
Data collected from the state Department of Transportation from 2004 to 2008 shows an average of 57,984 people a year are involved in crashes in North Carolina where distracted driving is a factor. More than 13,000 are injured and 119 die.
Nationwide, the number of people killed in distracted driving-related wrecks is nearly 5,500.
"I see a lot of people driving with their elbows on the steering wheel, texting with one hand," Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.
The North Carolina General Assembly voted in 2009 to make texting while driving illegal and troopers began issuing tickets in 2010 to drivers who violate that law. About 1,500 drivers have been cited.
But the State Highway Patrol says the texting law doesn't go far enough in preventing distracted driving.
Other common driving distractions include eating, reading, putting on makeup and adjusting the radio.
"Distracted driving is just as dangerous as impaired driving," Trooper Brian Maynard said.
Read ways to keep yourself from getting distracted while behind the wheel
During the first day of the Highway Patrol's two-day Distracted Campaign in Johnston, Wilson, Nash and Halifax counties, troopers issued 39 traffic citations, but only two were for texting while driving, Gordon said. Troopers also issued 39 warnings, Gordon added, including 16 for texting while driving.
Andy Rush received one of those warnings, but said he supports the campaign.
"If it cuts down on 5,500 deaths, it is a good reason to do it," he said.
The campaign continues Thursday in Durham and Wake counties, where troopers will focus on Interstates 85 and 40.
Distracting driving charges can result in hundreds of dollars in fines, plus points placed on a driver's license.