Texting-and-driving violations decrease, but are drivers getting the message?

Jul. 07, 2013 @ 03:12 PM

It seems North Carolina drivers, including those in the Triad, are getting the message when it comes to texting and driving.

According to the N.C. State Highway Patrol Communications Office, there has been a decrease in texting-while-driving citations across Guilford, Davidson and Randolph counties.
Since 2011, there has been a decreasing trend in violations, signaling that drivers may be more aware of the dangers.
Lt. Barry Roberts of the  High Point Police Department’s Traffic Unit said during the past year, 37 drivers have been charged with texting while driving in High Point. Roberts says most of the texting violations have been committed by adults over the age of 18.
North Carolina’s text messaging and cell phone laws are considered “primary” laws, meaning an officer can pull a driver over for the offense without having to witness some other violation. If an officer sees a driver texting, the officer can issue a citation.
Sgt. C.A. Webb of the highway patrol admits that the law can be tough to enforce at times.
“The reason why the number of drivers charged is so low is because texting while driving is a difficult violation to observe,” said Webb, whose territory includes Guilford County. “It requires a longer degree of observation.” 
Webb said in a typical scenario, officers will notice erratic driving and try to get closer to see if the driver is impaired, then realize the driver is on a cell phone texting or trying to dial a number.
“Two-lane roads are more difficult to observe, but multiple-lane roads are easier to observe,” he said. “Our officers can get right beside the driver unnoticed. That’s how we get most of our charges. The driver is so distracted by texting, they do not see the officer riding right beside them.”
Roberts says the primary reason drivers say they were texting and driving was they did not know it was against the law.
All North Carolina drivers are prohibited from texting or reading a text message while driving. And a bill making its way through the state House will make it even tougher on school bus drivers, raising the fine from $100 to $200. House Bill 499 is still in committee.
The penalty for a driver over the age of 18 caught texting or reading a text message while driving is a $100 fine plus court costs. Exceptions are allowed if the driver is performing in an official duty such as a law enforcement officer, a member of the fire department or operator of a public or private ambulance.
The violations do not result in driver’s license points or insurance surcharges.
Provisional license drivers under age 18 cannot use a cell phone (handheld or hands-free) while a vehicle is in motion unless they are talking to an emergency response operator, a hospital, physician’s office or health clinic, a public or privately owned ambulance company or service, fire department, law enforcement agency or their parent, legal guardian or spouse. The fine for drivers under 18 using a device while driving is $25. And if they’re caught texting, add another $100 plus court costs.


Texting while driving

Charges in High Point (June 1, 2012, to June 23, 2013)

• Under 18 years old: 1
• Age 18-21: 7
• Age 21 and up: 29

Charges by County


• 2011: 25
• 2012: 23
• 2013 (as of 6-23): 15


• 2011: 16
• 2012: 14
• 2013 (as of 6-23): 7


• 2011: 28
• 2012: 33
• 2013 (as of 6-23): 19

Did you know?

• Five seconds is the average time a driver’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling 55 mph, that is enough time to cover the length of a football field.
• In 2011, at least 23 percent of auto collisions involved cell phones, equaling 1.3 million crashes.
• At any given daylight moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
• In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010. An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 416,000 injured in 2010. 
• A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver.
• Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
• Using a cell phone while driving, whether it is handheld or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
• Forty-eight percent of young drivers have seen parents drive while talking  on a cell phone and 15 percent of young drivers have seen their parents texting while driving.
• Eleven percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. 
• Sixty percent of drivers use cell phones while driving. Over 60 percent of American teens admit to risky driving, and nearly half of those also admit to text messaging behind the wheel. 

SOURCES: www.textinganddrivingsaftey.com; www.distraction.gov; University of Utah; 2011 Harris Poll