Is NC’s texting while driving ban too difficult to enforce?

Since North Carolina law only bans drivers from using their cellphones to send texts or emails, enforcing the ban can be a challenge for authorities.

Many people in Dunn know texting while driving is dangerous but underestimate how common the behavior is. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 31 percent of drivers surveyed had sent or read texts or emails during the 30 days before the survey. North Carolina residents may think the risk of being injured in a car accident involving a texting driver is low, since state law bans texting and driving. However, certain aspects of the law may make enforcing the ban difficult.

Limitations of law

Fox News reports that the number of drivers cited under North Carolina's texting while driving ban has increased every year from 2010 to 2013. As of November, citations issued in 2014 were on pace to exceed the total number of citations issued in 2013. These figures indicate enforcement of the ban is successful. However, law enforcement authorities note that aspects of the ban may prevent those numbers from being even higher.

First, drivers are only explicitly banned from texting and emailing. They are still permitted to use a number of other electronic device features that may raise the risk of auto accidents as much as texting does. For example, drivers may do the following things without violating the ban:

  • Use apps
  • Play games
  • Look up directions

To issue a citation, law enforcement authorities must be able to prove a driver was texting or emailing, rather than using the cellphone for other purposes, which can be challenging.

Life-saving potential

Research published in the American Journal of Public Health in August indicates that primary texting bans are correlated with a 3 percent reduction in traffic fatalities. This represents an average of 19 lives saved yearly in every state that enforces a primary ban. Secondary bans, on the other hand, are not associated with a notable reduction in fatalities. The difficulty of enforcing these bans may be one factor that contributes to this pattern.

Texting while driving is a primary offense under North Carolina law. However, the current wording of the law may make full-scale enforcement difficult. This means that drivers in the state may not enjoy the full safety benefits that typically come with an easily enforced primary ban.

Possible changes ahead

Fox News states that the senator who sponsored the state's original texting ban hopes to introduce legislation during the coming year that will strengthen the law. The state highway patrol is also exploring ways to obtain drivers' cellphones after fatal crashes that may have involved cellphone use. This could make it easier for authorities to appropriately punish distracted drivers. It could also aid accident victims in holding distracted drivers responsible for the harm they cause.

Unfortunately, in the meantime, accidents due to distracted drivers may affect many people in North Carolina, and proving that the at-fault driver was distracted may be challenging. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving a texting driver should speak to a personal injury attorney about pursuing compensation.

Keywords: distracted driving, accident, injury, texting