WRAL Investigates

Proposal would outlaw holding cellphone while driving in NC

Posted March 25, 2015

— A state lawmaker wants to close a loophole that makes it very difficult for law enforcement officers to enforce North Carolina's ban on texting while driving.

North Carolina is one of 40 states that have laws against texting while driving. Yet, people still send and read text messages behind the wheel, and punishing them isn't so easy.

A WRAL Investigates report last July found that 1,458 people were cited with texting while driving in Wake County in 2013. Of the 1,367 cases disposed of in the county that year in Wake County, fewer than half resulted in drivers paying the $290 in fines and court costs. Many drivers fought their tickets and won.

The current law applies only to moving vehicles – drivers stopped at a red light can text and email – but drivers are still allowed to type into a phone's GPS and search for contacts. That distinction makes it tough on prosecutors.

Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, said a law enforcement officer would need a search warrant to seize a cellphone to support a charge that a driver was texting.

"It's easier (for the driver) to just say, 'No, I wasn't texting,'" Tarte said. "End of conversation. 'No, you can't look at my phone,' and there's nothing (an officer) can do."

His proposal, dubbed the Brian Garlock Act after a 17-year-old driver who was killed when he became distracted while using his cellphone, would simply make it illegal for a driver to hold a mobile device while driving.

People could still use hands-free devices and voice texting, but violations of the legislation would carry a $100 fine and court costs. A second violation within three years would also lead to a point on a driver's license – and the resulting higher insurance rates.

"It's going to bang you," Tarte said, "whether you're texting or not. If you're holding the phone, you're in trouble if you're driving."

More than 3,000 people die and more than a quarter-million are injured in the U.S. each year in crashes involving texting while driving, according to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

"As a dad, I support it. As a 40-something-year-old man, I'd be frustrated by it," Jim Palermo said of Tarte's proposal.

Fourteen states already have bans on using hand-held devices while driving, including California, where Joe DeKonty used to live.

"Do you start regulating when somebody puts their visor down to look in the mirror?" DeKonty said. "Somebody's always doing something. So, the question becomes, when are you accountable or held accountable for something that you're doing in a car?"


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  • Andi Rueny Mar 27, 2015
    user avatar

    Sorry Roy, but you have no point. Sammy, I am not saying it's all about me, but why should many be restricted because of actions of the few. You say you pass or see so many texting or talking but how many did you pass that you didn't see or were not. I am 50 not 15 and have never had a ticket because I always pay attention to what I am doing. If others can't that is on them not me. What's next...(have you ever had a distracted driving ticket before...umm well yes I have, well then I'm sorry you can't buy a cell phone or a car) ?

  • Scott Mace Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    And, the point is, they shouldn't be. For the very same reasons that "civilians" can't do it.

  • Roy Hinkley Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Har har, but no.

    Emergency personnel acting in their official capacity are exempt.

  • Clovis Sangrail Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    -no fiddling with computers while drivingThey would bust all the Raleigh police.
    They are constantly looking over at their laptop screen and tapping away.

  • Michael Bryant Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    So then, is this law going to exclude emergencies? If so, then it must define what is an emergency, and I am quite positive that it would be hard to name all emergencies that would warrant use of a phone. If it doesn't exclude emergencies then are they going to fine people for trying to use it during an emergency? This is just too difficult of a law to pass. I also disagree with not being able to use it for GPS. Honestly, if they are going to ban the use of a cell phone outright then they are going to be creating a situation in which innocent people are charged with crimes. Would you like your grandmother charged with using her GPS because shes lost? Or your mother charged with a crime for trying to report a suspicious vehicle following her? I don't think so. Besides that, messing with the radio, or mounted GPS, as well as using hand-free voice communication is just as distracting as holding the phone.

  • Scott Mace Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    I'd be on board with this so long as it includes:

    -no eating while driving
    -no consumption of beverages of any kind while driving
    -no application of makeup while driving
    -no reading of books/newspapers/magazines/ereaders/etc while driving
    -no fiddling with the radio while driving.
    -no fiddling with GPS while driving.
    -no fiddling with computers while driving

    OH, and remove the law enforcement/etc. exemption to these rules as well. If the common citizen can't be allowed to do these things because it's not possible to train humans to truly multitask, then they can't be trained to do it either, assuming they're human.

    Distracted driving is distracted driving, no matter the source... so don't pick on one thing, get it all if you're serious about making the roads safer.

  • Kristin Byrne Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    Just because it's outlawed doesn't mean people are going to follow the law. Texting while driving is illegal. You're very naive if you believe that keeps people from texting because I see it numerous times a day. That person who's driving 10 mph below the speed limit in the left lane? The one who keeps looking into his/her lap as you pass them? Yeah, texting. The law didn't stop them from doing that.

  • Jeff DeWitt Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I've no idea, and a quick search only turned up references to the anti texting law. If there isn't actually a general law against distracted driving THAT'S what the Legislature ought to be debating, not holding a cell phone.

  • Heather Bruno Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    Ok so what about all these people that allow their dogs in their laps while driving? There's all kinds of things that can be distracting while driving. Are you gonna keep children from being in the car too because they are a big distraction, believe me I know, I have a 4 year old.

  • Brian Hill Mar 26, 2015
    user avatar

    This is simply another revenue raising opportunity for the state.

    For example :
    Failure to comply with the provisions of this section shall not constitute negligence per se or contributory negligence by the operator in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a
    motor vehicle or school bus".

    Oh and government employees (police officers etc.) are exempt from the requirements because, as we know, police officers have never caused wrecks as a result of distracted driving.