We all see it every day on our streets and highways. Many of us do it from time to time. Its dangerous. It can be deadly. But, what is the law on this important issue?
Cell Phone Restrictions
- All drivers under 18 are banned from using cell phones while driving. Dialing 911 in the case of an emergency is the lone exception.
- School bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones.
- All drivers are banned from texting while behind the wheel.
The use of mobile phones by those driving cars causes countless injuries and deaths. North Carolina legislators have enacted a law that prohibits teens and school bus drivers from using cell phones. All drivers are banned from texting, but are these laws making our streets any safer.
A new study reveals that the North Carolina ban on texting while driving is failing because teenagers are ignoring the law.
In 2005, North Carolina enacted a cell phone ban for teenage drivers. Now, researchers from the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have concluded that teens simply are ignoring the law. Their report, which was published recently in the academic journal ‘Accident Analysis and Prevention’, is based on observing the behavior of 5,000 teen drivers as they left high school parking lots.
The researchers found there was a slight decrease in texting immediately after the ban was enacted, but that teen texting while driving had increased by 40 percent by 2008. Although the researchers collected no data after that year, Arthur Goodwin—the lead investigator for the study and a senior research associate at the Highway Safety Research Center—told reporters that the rate of cell phone use and texting by teen drivers probably is still higher today.
A recent AT&T survey of teen attitudes found that 43 percent of teen drivers admitted to texting while driving, even though almost all of them—97 percent—admitted that the practice is dangerous. They’re certainly right about the last part. The U.S. Department of Transportation says that over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving traffic accidents in 2010. The specific impact of texting while driving is immense: “Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted,” according to the Transportation Department’s website devoted to distracted driving prevention.
So, why is the North Carolina initiative falling flat? State Senator Stan Bingham, who was one of the original sponsors of the bill to ban teenage texting, told reporters that the law is conceptually flawed and may need to be revised. “We’ve passed a law that’s impossible to enforce,” he said. “This study will be used to aid future legislation”.
Although cell phone use by a teenage driver is a primary offense—which means a vehicle can be stopped and a citation issued for the use of a cell phone even if the driver is not violating any other laws–the law is rarely applied. The State Highway Patrol issued only 22 citations for the offense in 2011. One problem is that the law applies only to teenagers under age 18. When a police officer observes a driver using a cell phone, it is not immediately evident whether the driver is under the age of 18.
As concerned citizens and North Carolina car accident lawyers, we must continue to try to deliver the message to teens (and adults) that they should not do something they know to be unsafe. Like learning to drive a car, behaving responsibly is part of the transition to adulthood.
Auto accidents caused by distracted drivers are dangerous and sometimes deadly. The good news is that they are completely avoidable. Each of us can help by warning others of the dangers of this dangerous activity.
At Speaks Law Firm we are warning others through a public safety initiative: Practice Safe Text. This phrase goes on our website, bill boards and office sign in an effort to disseminate this important message. Our hope is that it is a memorable phrase that may save someone from injury or death.