Distracted driving is the second most common cause of car wrecks in the North Carolina (NC) It trails only speeding, according to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. More than 1,500 car crashes resulting in loss of life and another 120,000-plus serious injuries are caused by or involve drivers who failed to keeps their eyes and minds on the road in North Carolina during an average year. It is estimated that a car accident causing injury or death occurs every 6.5 minutes on a NC road or highway. These are scary statistics.
One of the most common forms of distracted driving is texting while driving. A new generation of drivers is used to typing away on their cell phones, even while behind the wheel of a car. North Carolina has tried to combat this problem by passing a law restricting texting while driving. The current penalty is a $100 ticket. Nevertheless, the texting law is categorized as a “secondary offense” which means a police officer can’t pull someone over if they see they’re texting. The driver would have to commit another traffic violation like running a red light or speeding.
Studies have shown texting while driving is 23 times more dangerous than not texting and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared distracted driving is an “epidemic.” Our firm has been concerned about this issue for some time and recently published a consumer report about the dangers of distracted driving, including texting while driving (take advantage of the free download here). Nearly 20 states have adopted restrictions on texting while behind the wheel and some states have even restricted the general use of cell phones in a car, but it is clear more needs to be done.
The federal government is looking to take action by tying federal highway funds to states that adopt texting while driving restrictions. This bill, proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is still working its way through Congress, but could be signed into law by the end of the year.
States shouldn’t wait on the federal government to take action. They need to consider revising their current texting laws and upgrade them to a primary offense. This would allow police officers to actually enforce the texting restriction more effectively. In addition, we need to stress the dangers of distracted driving in driver’s education courses across the country. The next generation of drivers is at a much higher risk of getting into a car wreck and suffering a serious injury due to distracted driving then at the present time. Why? Because virtually every adolescent has a cell phone and texting is like second nature. It’ll be a very tough habit to break, but it needs to be done.
If these changes are made, one can hope the data will start to show a curb in car accidents attributable to distracted driving.