It is no secret that distracted driving has become a major concern in North Carolina and across the country. According to statistics compiled by the North Carolina Department of Transportation in the years between 2008 and 2013 there have been approximately 50,000 crashes each year in the state caused by distracted driving with approximately 28,000 injuries occurring for the same reason, and at least 140 fatalities has resulted from distracted driving in each of these years. Crashes and injuries are happening in the state three to four times more often due to distracted driving than due to alcohol use.
Distracted driving and North Carolina law
One of the biggest distractions to driving is using cell phones, either by holding conversations, or sending and receiving text messages or other electronic visual communications. Like many states, North Carolina has enacted laws in an attempt to curb some of these distractions but in many ways these laws have fallen short and many are difficult to enforce.
The state currently has a ban on text messaging for all drivers, and a ban on all cell phone use, with or without the use of "hands-free" technology for bus drivers and drivers 18 and younger. The majority of drivers, those 19 or older who are driving a standard vehicle can still talk on the phone with or without "hands-free" equipment. It's possible that this may change if state law makers become successful in passing the Brian Garlock Act named for a teen that was killed after being distracted by his phone while driving. If the bill were to become law, it would be illegal to hold a cell phone while driving, whether or not was actually being used. People would still be permitted to use hands-free technology to make calls, even though there is evidence showing that cell phones are still distracting even with the driver's hands on the wheel. So far, no state has taken the step to ban hands-free devices for all drivers.
While there are current laws against texting, it has been challenging for law enforcement to make consequences stick when the laws are violated. In 2013 there were 1,367 cases in Wake County that accused drivers of texting while driving. Less than half wound up paying fines. North Carolinians' are allowed to read and send text messages at red lights and stop signs, which makes fighting a ticket that much easier. Law enforcement is also not permitted to seize a cell phone as evidence of texting.
When accidents happen
When accidents occur, and individuals are injured, it is more likely for cell phone use to be revealed. In these cases drivers have more to contend with than a traffic ticket - they may face criminal or civil charges. Those who are injured because of these distractions have to contend with immediate medical bills, they may miss out on wages from work, accumulate extra expenses to care for their home and family, and may have long term health problems or a disability after an accident.
At Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, our lawyers have more than 40 years experience dealing with car accident claims in several North Carolina counties, and have been helping many clients receive fair compensation for their injuries. If you've been injured because of a distracted driver -- or for any reason, contact us to arrange a free initial consultation.