Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration clearly demonstrates that distracted driving is not only deadly, but also on the rise. More than 3,000 people die each year in accidents caused by distracted drivers. To try and get the epidemic of accidents under control, lawmakers in North Carolina passed measures designed to make it easier for officers to pull dangerous drivers off the road. However, a recent newspaper article reveals that some big loopholes make it hard for officers to effectively police distracted driving.
Millions of motorists text and drive; it’s a fact. According to several surveys, almost 50 percent of adult drivers say they occasionally text behind the wheel. That number jumps even higher when younger drivers are asked the same question. Thankfully, police officers in North Carolina are empowered to pull these dangerous drivers over due to a recently implemented distracted driving law that makes texting a primary offense. Sounds like the problem could be easily remedied, right? Wrong.
Though North Carolina is one of 40 states with texting while driving laws on the books, the problem is that it is all too easy for drivers to avoid being charged and, even if they are charged, avoid being convicted. The trouble with texting charges has even led to a decline in the number of citations being issued out by Wake County police officers, a populous North Carolina county where the number of citations dropped by more than 300 from the previous year.
According to experts, the problem is that it is too easy to get texting cases thrown out, with drivers simply claiming they were not texting, but instead doing something else on their phones. In one recent case, a driver was cited for texting and went to court to have his charges tossed, claiming he was looking at a map at the time.
Numbers show that out of more than 1,300 texting while driving cases brought in Wake County last year, about half of the drivers paid their fine. In the rest, drivers fought and usually won, getting the charges dismissed.
The trouble is that in North Carolina the law is clear that if an officer asks to see your phone, in an attempt to prove you were in fact texting, the driver can simply refuse to hand it over. The officer would have to go get a search warrant before he or she could know for sure that a driver was texting at the time. Additionally, the law contains some big loopholes that say drivers who are stopped at red lights are allowed to text and email while drivers in moving vehicles can type on their phone’s GPS or mapping system and can search for contacts. It can be difficult if not impossible for police officers to know whether someone typing on a phone is doing so to text or to map.
Unless the law changes and bans all handheld use of, experts say that law enforcement officers will continue having a hard time bringing cases against texting drivers.
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