Local News

Texting while driving ban takes effect

Posted November 30, 2009
Updated December 1, 2009


— Starting Tuesday, North Carolina drivers who text behind the wheel will need to pull over to avoid fines.

Texting and driving don't mix Texting and driving don't mix

The driving-while-texting ban, among 50-plus new state laws, builds upon a 2006 law already making it illegal for young drivers to use a cell phone while driving as a way to reduce distractions on the road.

According to AAA, a person who uses a cell phone while driving has the same deficient motor skills as someone with 0.08 blood-alcohol content level, which the state considers legally impaired.

“We feel it's more dangerous than drunken driving, and it's much more widespread, and kind of more accepted because people think, ‘Oh well everybody's doing it.’ But it really is more dangerous,” Jodi Woolard, a branch manager with AAA Vacations, said of texting while driving.

The law bars drivers from text messaging or sending e-mails with their cell phones while on a road or highway. But the law only applies to the driver while the vehicle is moving, not when it's stopped or parked.

"If you have a phone in your hand, and you are looking up a number, then that is fine. That is not considered texting. It's either texting e-mail or retrieving or sending texting," Sgt. Jeff Gordon, with the state Highway Patrol, explained.

Violators could face a $100 fine, plus $130 in court costs, and fines are higher for school bus drivers caught in the act. Police officers and other safety officials are exempt while in the performance of official duties.

"Our whole goal here is just to get people to focus on driving and not to be distracted when you're behind a vehicle," Gordon said.

Adults can continue to send or receive cell phone calls.

“What we're asking people to do, if you are going to text, stop your vehicle, pull off on the side of the road, receive the text, send the text, and then once you get done with that, then precede on your way,” Gordon said.

AAA Carolinas recommends the follow advice for cell phone usage by drivers:

  • Never use a cell phone to text a message while driving. Texting is one of the worst distractions because it requires both physical and mental attention, taking away attention from watching the road.
  • Use a cell phone in a vehicle only when absolutely necessary. Any use of a cell phone while driving should be with a hands-free device.
  • Do not take your hands off the wheel to either answer or initiate a cell phone call.
  • Unexpected phone calls should go directly to voice mail. Pull off the road to check voice mail messages and return calls.

At least 18 other states have texting bans for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The state Highway Patrol says too many young people are still ignoring the 2006 law. The patrol is holding safety events at high schools where teenagers travel in golf carts and try to avoid traffic cones while being told to send a text message.

"It's going to take more than just a state trooper 30 minutes or an hour working with them," patrol Capt. Everett Clendenin said. "It's going to fall back on parents and it's going to fall back on educators."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • lorivalentine1 Dec 2, 2009

    Do I think we should have to go to this extreme? NO.. but I do think unfortunately there is a need and likely they should have voted to disallow cell phones altogether like CA did.. There are way too many deaths here from stupidity and lack of attention while driving. I am not the perfect driver and do not claim to be, I am defensive and I do not drive and attempt the numerous silly stuff I see going on in vehicles every day by drivers instead of actually paying attention while driving. Many senseless deaths can be avoided by simply not trying to multi-tasking when driving.

  • WXYZ Dec 2, 2009

    Why are laws like this "necessary"? This happens after every election. We get a new bunch of legislators, most of whom are hell-bent to get their names recorded in the state's legislative history, by dreaming up more and more laws, which control or limit human behavior, even though they know that those new laws are, for the most part, not going to be enforced. Most laws like this are more punitive than preventative. Those truths notwithstanding, there are always going to be people and drivers who are self-centered, selfish, arrogant, disrespectful, ungrateful, immature, foolish, ignorant, angry, rebellious, distracted or just lack common sense; and, who are going to regularly break the rules of driving, because they know they are unlikely to get caught. My training in high school was called: "defensive driving"; i.e. always expect and be prepared to deal with the bad driving of others. Now, just as then, defensive driving is the only "rule of the road", which is truly preventative.

  • james27613 Dec 1, 2009

    I was having lunch at Milton's today, watched numerous cars
    blow past the dual stop signs, many not using any phone or
    seat belts.

    Those that did have phones were talking on them, not paying
    attention, one young lady almost caused a three car accident
    because she was using her phone instead of a hands free unit.

  • superman Dec 1, 2009

    Just another example of a half law. Outlaw cell phones in moving vehicles on the road! Legalize drunk driving and take the crazy people off the highway using their cell phones.

  • leo-nc Dec 1, 2009

    "So, does this also apply to LEOs who type on their computers while driving? I have never understood why that should be allowed while texting is banned"----

    Are you serious? Yeah, we just surf the net with those annoying little contraptions. That's it. WOW

  • leo-nc Dec 1, 2009

    "Punching buttons is completely legal still, Mr. Common Sense. I can flip through my facebook posts, find apps, change songs on my iPhone, purchase songs via itunes, take pictures out the window, watch youtube videos, etc. all from my iPhone without violating this law, which deals only with text and e-mail."---

    No you can't.

  • dugmeister Dec 1, 2009

    Can I still post on GOLO while driving? jes askin....

  • JeremyT Dec 1, 2009

    @tupawk: 'Everyone should pay much more close attention to the actual law.'

    Indeed, this is a potentially major issue - you purchase the fancy all in one device, only to find that using it for any purpose other than voice is senselessly outlawed.

    Nobody in the press (hey, WRAL!) is actually covering this angle it all which is astounding. A lot of people are going to base their perception of the regulation on the press coverage only (as is evident by many comments here) which only ever mentions 'text and email.'

    Pay attention, folks. None of the advanced capabilities of your smartphones are legal while driving now.

  • airbornemonty Dec 1, 2009

    Now if only they would ban the ear held cell phone.

    No, I don't mean the Blue Tooth, whale tooth, shark tooth or wharever it is called, I mean the hand held mammer-jammer. That would suit me just fine.

  • tupawk Dec 1, 2009

    Everyone should pay much more close attention to the actual law. It states:

    "Additional technology. – Any technology that provides access to digital media including, but not limited to, a camera, electronic mail, music, the Internet, text messaging, or games."

    That means everyone that uses google maps on your phone, not anymore. Pay for that fancy GPS software to run? Too bad. How about the plug that hooks your phone up to your car stereo? Buzz!

    This is much more than just texting. The "including but not limited to" also leaves it wide open for interpretation. You can see the actual bill here: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S22v0.pdf