Does North Carolina need stronger distracted driving laws?

North Carolina’s texting ban, which allows drivers to use cell phones for various purposes, may leave drivers at risk for distraction-related accidents.

As most people in Raleigh know, distracted driving is a common cause of accidents today. In North Carolina, lawmakers have recognized this issue and sought to address it through a ban on texting. Unfortunately, despite this measure, drivers in the state may still face a high risk of distraction-related accidents. Reports suggest that the existing law is too narrow to fully deter dangerous behaviors or prevent accidents involving inattentive drivers.

Current loopholes

The state's texting ban allows drivers leeway to use their phones while making it harder for authorities to detect violations. WCNC News explains that under the ban, drivers can legally do all of the following things:

  • Use their phones while stopped at traffic signals
  • Look up or type in phone numbers and addresses
  • Browse social media websites without entering text

Most of these activities can be just as dangerous as texting. Any visual diversion can increase a driver's risk of causing a serious rear-end accident, drifting into another lane or completely leaving the road. A deadly 2014 North Carolina accident, in which a driver crashed seconds after posting on Facebook, underscores this serious risk.

Potential solutions

To address these dangers, safety advocates have called for a more comprehensive law or a ban on all handheld cell phones. While hands-free devices can still be cognitively distracting, they at least spare drivers from manual and visual diversions.

According to WSOC TV, some state lawmakers are seeking stronger penalties for distracted driving. More severe sanctions could deter drivers who get caught from engaging in the same behaviors in the future. Still, given the limitations of the current law, many inattentive drivers might go unpunished.

Safety effects

Distracted driving contributes to a significant number of accidents in North Carolina. WCNC News states that the North Carolina Highway Patrol labeled distraction as a factor in at least 590 crashes in 2014. According to WSOC TV, distraction due specifically to electronic devices was a factor in 428 of those accidents.

The true rate of distracted driving may be even higher. The Charlotte Department of Transportation recently reported that distracted driving accounts for about one-quarter of local accidents. If the driving habits of people in Charlotte are similar to those of other state residents, distraction could contribute to even more accidents each year.

Legal recourse

Drivers who engage in unnecessary distractions may be considered negligent if they cause accidents and injuries. Proving a driver was negligent may be simpler if the driver was violating a traffic law at the time of the accident. Still, this does not prohibit accident victims from seeking recourse from drivers who were engaging in distractions that technically are legal.

Anyone who has been injured in a distraction-related accident should consider meeting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on the available legal remedies or guidance during the injury claim process.

Keywords: texting, distracted, driving, accident