Local Politics

House committee approves texting ban for drivers

Posted April 14, 2009 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2009 7:14 p.m. EDT

— A state House of Representatives judiciary committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would make it illegal for drivers to write or respond to text messages while driving.

North Carolina has already banned cell phone use and texting for bus drivers and teenagers under 18. But House Bill 9 would prohibit the practice for all drivers, regardless of age.

The full House could vote on the bill as early as next week, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Hoke, said.

If it were to become law, drivers would have to either pull over or wait until they have stopped their vehicle before they could text or e-mail. Violators would be fined at least $100.

"My bottom line is safety on the highways," Pierce said.

Ron Wyatt, president of a local chapter of the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police, said that, although he believes typing or reading on small screens is a major distraction, enforcing the law would prove difficult.

Unless a driver is holding a phone in plain view, an officer generally would not be able to see what the driver is doing, he said.

"It's not going to do anything," Wyatt said. "It's a feel-good bill to make the general public feel good that we're trying to do something, lawmaker-wise, to protect those of us who don't text."

Pierce said he believes there is tremendous value in just sending a message.

"It's all about safety, and I think we have a lot of law-abiding citizens," he said. "If people know it's illegal, we'd hope they'd abide by those rules."

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, text messaging is banned for all drivers in 10 states and the District of Columbia.