Proposal would outlaw holding cellphone while driving in NC
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.Posted — Updated
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."
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."
"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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