Local News

Graphic billboards warn against cell phones and driving

Posted April 14, 2009 10:35 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2009 10:51 p.m. EDT

— Billboards depicting a bloody crash are part of a AAA Carolinas’ campaign to keep drivers from using cell phones while driving.

One billboard along Interstate 95 outside of Benson shows a woman's hand and a cell phone covered in blood. The sign shows the words, “Hang up and drive.”

“I think the image does get your attention,” said Charlene Edwards, of AAA Carolinas.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says 8 out of 10 crashes happen when drivers are distracted. AAA Carolinas points to cell phones as the cause for many of those wrecks.

The billboard campaign has gotten the attention of many drivers, who agree with the message.

Franklin Gravitt said his first reaction when seeing the billboard was to hang up the phone. A couple of years ago, Gravitt said he was involved in a cell phone related wreck.

“I was texting instead of looking at the road,” Gravitt said.

A 2008 AAA survey showed 53 percent of drivers admit to talking on the phone behind the wheel. Fourteen-percent admitted to texting while driving.

To be truthful, Edwards thinks those numbers are higher. “That may be conservative. A lot of people may not be honest about it,” she said.

Texting while driving may soon be against the law in North Carolina. 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.

“It is just about safety on the highways,” Pierce 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.