Local News

Despite ban, teen cell phone usage while driving increases

Posted January 14, 2009 6:47 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina law prohibits teenagers under 18 from using cell phones and texting while they drive.

But since the ban went into effect in 2006, the number of teens who say they do so has actually increased slightly from 11 percent to 11.8 percent, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The number of citations teens have received, however, have been minimal.

In 2007, officers across the state issued 50 tickets to teens. Of those, Wake County had three citations, Johnston County had one, and Orange and Durham counties had none.

Teens admit to breaking the law, and researchers say it's a dangerous trend.

"The more they tell us not to do it, we do it, anyway," said Brooke Holt, a high school student who recently turned 18. "I've done it a couple of times. I'll be honest, I've run off the road while texting."

"Younger drivers, we know from our research, are at a higher risk of crashing than any other age," said Eric Rodgman, with the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. "Their attitude is that they don't see themselves as being a risk to get involved in a crash or be injured," Rodgman said.

Police say it difficult to catch and difficult to tell if a driver is under 18.

Rodgman says the rush is on to get even more research with teens especially in the area of texting.

There are exceptions to the law. Teens can dial 911 or their parents in an emergency. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia restrict both handheld and hands-free phones for young drivers.