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Texting While Driving | Texting and Driving

By: Bill Powers, Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney and author of the popular North Carolina DWI Quick Reference Guide.

North Carolina Laws on Texting and Driving NHTSA

About half of all states now have passed state texting and driving laws that mandate hands-free cell phone usage. NHTSA, a federal government agency in Washington, DC, tracks car accident statistics in America, to determine their causes. N.H.T.S.A. was the federal agency that pushed for DUI-DWI laws with a national standard of a 0.08 BAC limit for adult drivers, and (a decade or so earlier) in changing the legal drinking age to age 21 and over.

To deter the dangerous behavior, the highway safety agency advocates for tougher laws, to match the felony or misdemeanor statutes in place around the United States. The North Carolina legislature has not been able to enact hands-free phones being mandated in NC, despite trying to do so since the original NC text message law took effect in 2007.

Plus, by comparison to other states, the NC traffic law for texting is not much more than a slap on the wrist. In many, if not most instances, violating the law is an infraction. Under the specific language of the law in NC, a violation of the mobile phone law, “No drivers license points or insurance surcharge shall be assessed as a result of a violation of this section.”

**There are important exceptions though. See the information provided below regarding texting laws in North Carolina.

The High Risk of Texting and Driving in NC

With the advent of the cell phone and its technological lineage, the smartphone, crashes involving distracted driving while texting now exceed NC DWI accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversees national driving safety laws, and texting while driving has come to the top of their list of driving offenses, due to the economic impact and loss of lives. NC drivers continue to send text messages while driving, despite constant reminders of the risks.

Texting and Driving Penalties and Consequences

The consequences of texting and driving have received much publicity through public service announcements and advertising media of all types. Traveling at just 60 mph, a vehicle will travel 88 feet per second, or the length of a football field in less than 4 seconds.

Some national studies have shown that over one-third of all young drivers text and drive, and cannot perceive that their need to send a text is a problem. This is why media professionals create highly emotional products to bring the message to these young drivers, before they become the focus of a felony homicide by vehicle accident.

Watch the video clip below, for a great example of a very moving story of the risks associated with texting while driving:

Teen Drivers Admit to Texting While Driving Learning the Human Toll of “Text Now”

Carolina Attorneys The World Health Organization Wants Mobile Phone Use to End

Trying to talk on the phone while driving or take your eyes off the road in order to see the screen on a smartphone leads to horrific, tragic consequences of texting and driving. But, according to the World Health Organization, even a hands-free Bluetooth phone is dangerous.

Lax enforcement of NC texting and driving laws is clearly a substantial reason why distracted driving in North Carolina now accounts for a major, preventable factor in mounting property loss and serious bodily injury and fatalities caused by a distracted driver. Compared to the state of Alaska, North Carolina texting while driving penalties are a cakewalk:

Maximum Penalty for the first texting offense nationwide
IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/10/numbers-texting-and-driving/

See this Charlotte Television News Report on North Carolina’s law on texting while driving:

wbtv logo

TV News Report on Loopholes in NC Texting While Driving Law

Additionally, as covered in the WBTV news report, the current, relatively minor North Carolina misdemeanor statute generally pertains to school bus drivers transporting children, and to teen drivers under age 18. Both applicable statutes are set forth below, showing the minor infraction and misdemeanor punishments imposed under NC texting laws. If you want more information about mobile phone laws in North Carolina, we provide a free, confidential consultation.

That’s true whether you are cited or charged with such an offense, or have been hurt in a wreck due to someone’s negligence. We handle both types of cases.

NC Motor Vehicle Code Section 20-137.4 – Unlawful Use of a Mobile Device

N.C.G.S.A. § 20-137.3

  • 20–137.3. Unlawful use of a mobile phone by persons under 18 years of age
    1. Definitions.–The following definitions apply in this section:
      1. Additional technology.–Any technology that provides access to digital media including, but not limited to, a camera, music, the Internet, or games. The term does not include electronic mail or text messaging.
      2. Mobile telephone.–A device used by subscribers and other users of wireless telephone service to access the service. The term includes: (i) a device with which a user engages in a call using at least one hand, and (ii) a device that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of the mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a call without the use of either hand, whether or not the use of either hand is necessary to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of such telephone.
      3. Wireless telephone service.–A service that is a two-way real-time voice telecommunications service that is interconnected to a public switched telephone network and is provided by a commercial mobile radio service, as such term is defined by 47 C.F.R. § 20.3.
    2. Offense.–Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person under the age of 18 years shall operate a motor vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area while using a mobile telephone or any additional technology associated with a mobile telephone while the vehicle is in motion. This prohibition shall not apply to the use of a mobile telephone or additional technology in a stationary vehicle.
    3. Seizure.–The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a mobile telephone, unless otherwise provided by law.
    4. Exceptions.–The provisions of subsection (b) of this section shall not apply if the use of a mobile telephone is for the sole purpose of communicating with:
      1. Any of the following regarding an emergency situation: an emergency response operator; a hospital, physician’s office, or health clinic; a public or privately owned ambulance company or service; a fire department; or a law enforcement agency.
      2. The motor vehicle operator’s parent, legal guardian or spouse.
    5. Penalty.–Any person violating this section shall have committed an infraction and shall pay a fine of twenty-five dollars ($25.00). This offense is an offense for which a defendant may waive the right to a hearing or trial and admit responsibility for the infraction pursuant to G.S. 7A-148. No drivers license points, insurance surcharge, or court costs shall be assessed as a result of a violation of this section.

[Note: G.S. 7A-148 means that the infraction can be presented on a traffic ticket].

N.C.G.S.A. § 20-137.4

  • 20-137.4. Unlawful use of a mobile phone
    1. Definitions.–For purposes of this section, the following terms shall mean:
      1. Additional technology.–As defined in G.S. 20-137.3(a)(1).
      2. Emergency situation.–Circumstances such as medical concerns, unsafe road conditions, matters of public safety, or mechanical problems that create a risk of harm for the operator or passengers of a school bus.
      3. Mobile telephone.–As defined in G.S. 20-137.3(a)(2).
      4. School bus.–As defined in G.S. 20-4.01(27) d4. The term also includes any school activity bus as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(27)d3. and any vehicle transporting public, private, or parochial school students for compensation.
    2. Offense.–Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall operate a school bus on a public street or highway or public vehicular area while using a mobile telephone or any additional technology associated with a mobile telephone while the school bus is in motion. This prohibition shall not apply to the use of a mobile telephone or additional technology associated with a mobile telephone in a stationary school bus.
    3. Seizure.–The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a mobile telephone or additional technology, unless otherwise provided by law.
    4. Exceptions.–The provisions of subsection (b) of this section shall not apply to the use of a mobile telephone or additional technology associated with a mobile telephone for the sole purpose of communicating in an emergency situation.
    5. Local Ordinances.–No local government may pass any ordinance regulating the use of mobile telephones or additional technology associated with a mobile telephone by operators of school buses.
    6. Penalty.–A violation of this section shall be a Class 2 misdemeanor and shall be punishable by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100.00). No drivers license points or insurance surcharge shall be assessed as a result of a violation of this section. 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 school bus.
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