Texting while driving now punishable by law in North Carolina

Published 6:27 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

Distracted driving has proliferated to become one of the most practiced deadly driving behaviors by today’s motorist.

Texting while driving is an increasingly popular activity, especially among young drivers unaware of the potential for instantaneous, disastrous results, said Dave parsons, a member of the AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety and president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, speaking at a press conference called by Rep. Garland Pierce a primary supporter of the bill in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

The foundation intends to broadcast next year one of the most graphic 30-second traffic safety videos ever aired to create emotional awareness of the dangers of texting while driving.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

This video may shock some but that is the intent: to create a lasting impression that texting while driving is deadly, said Parsons. It takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off driving. Those three distractions affect a driver mentally, physically and emotionally all three necessary activities needed to focus on safe driving.

On December 1, texting while driving became punishable for all motorists in North Carolina with a fine up to $100 plus court costs. The video will air in four markets: Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville and Greensboro.

The full video is viewable at http://www.aaacarolinas.com/Automotive/Safety/distracted_driving.htm.

Some television stations will air the video as a Public Service Announcement, while others will air it as a paid educational message to viewers.

The video, which has the tagline: You Drive, You Text, You Die is part of a continuing AAA Carolinas campaign to educate motorists on the dangers of distracted driving.

The Foundation has been active in educating the public about distracted driving, using billboards and gas station placards in North and South Carolina to warn drivers of the dangers of distracted driving, particularly talking or texting on a hand-held cell phone while driving.

Using a cell phone (talking hands-free or hand-held) while driving is very dangerous, as many motorists know from personal experience or from watching drivers using cell phones in nearby cars, said Parsons. Texting is the worse, because not only is your mind not focused on driving, your eyes are not on the road.

The 30-second video, which AAA Carolinas will disseminate free to any community organization, high school or church group that wishes to use it to promote traffic safety, is also available for broadcast media to use as a Public Service Announcement.

Ironically, many television stations that will air a fantasy horror show about Halloween are reluctant to show a simulated, graphic video that displays real life results from poor driving behavior, said Tom Crosby, president of the AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety.

AAA Carolinas tips for cell phone usage by motorists:

Never use a cell phone to text a message while driving. Texting is one of the worst distractions because it requires both physical and mental attention, taking away attention from watching the road.

Use a cell phone in a vehicle only when absolutely necessary. Any use of a cell phone while driving should be with a hands-free device.

Do not take your hands off the wheel to either answer or initiate a cell phone call.

Unexpected phone calls should go directly to voice mail. Pull off the road to check voice mail messages and return calls.

Below is a selected list of studies and surveys done on the dangers of texting and cell phone use from 1997-2009.


Drivers who used mobile phones while driving were four times more likely to crash than those not, a rate equal to that for drunken driving, the first serious analysis relating crashes and cell phone use prior to texting becoming a cell phone feature. Both handheld and hands-free cell phones impaired driving, with no significant difference in the degree of impairment. – 1997

2,600 people have died in cell phone-texting related crashes and drivers who use cell phones while driving have the same deficient motor skills as people with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content. – 2003

Driver distraction including texting was reported to have been involved in 16 percent of all fatal crashes. – 2008

73 percent of drivers use their cell phones in the car, and 20 percent text message while behind the wheel. One of every 5 drivers is not devoting full attention to the road. 80 percent admitted to being in a vehicle with a driver who has been distracted. – 2008

One in seven drivers admitted to text messaging while driving. Nearly half of drivers ages 18 to 24 admitted texting while driving at least occasionally, as compared to less than five percent of those ages 45 and older. – 2008

Teens and 20-somethings were by far the largest users of texting, coming in at 94 percent for teens and 87 percent for 20-somethings, but usage also is high for older age groups. For those in their 40s, 64 percent, and for those in their 50s, 46 percent. – 2008

28 percent of all mobile phone users reported sending texts while driving. Roughly the same percentage (26 percent) admitted to texting behind the wheel. Almost 60 percent of those aged 16 to 19 admit to driving while texting and 49 percent of those 20 to 29. The percentages get smaller for older respondents, but usage remains high with 13 percent of those in their 50s admitting to doing so. – 2009

North Carolina:

88 percent of the people surveyed own a cell phone. 80 percent of those polled believe the use of cell phones while driving decreases highway safety, but at the same time 54 percent of those cell phone users use a phone while they’re behind the wheel. Of the people who drive while on the phone, 56 percent do not use a hands-free device. Two out of three people say driving while on the phone should be illegal except in the case of an emergency. (texting not part of the analysis) – 2009

South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia:

SC, GA, TN, VA were among the six worst states for texting while driving in 2008. South Carolina was rated the worst in the nation.

South Carolina:

Text messaging and using iPods caused drivers to leave their lanes 10 percent more often in a simulated driving study. – 2008.