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Is Texting While Driving Illegal In North Carolina?

Is Texting While Driving Illegal In North Carolina?

In short: yes.

North Carolina’s distracted driving laws cover any activity that takes your mind or your eyes off the road while driving. This includes texting, email, and in some cases talking on a mobile phone. However, the law doesn’t always prevent drivers from making dangerous choices and causing a crash.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, keep reading to learn more about texting and driving laws in North Carolina and the steps you can take to protect your insurance claim.

Distracted Driving Causes Thousands of Crashes in North Carolina Every Year

Car accidents—and the injuries and fatalities they cause—have been on the rise over most of the last decade. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting and driving was responsible for more than 3,000 fatalities in the United States in 2019.

Most experts agree that distracted driving is a major contributor to the alarming statistics. One only has to consider the rapid, massive increase in cell phone use to understand why.

Looking at just statewide figures, official 2019 statistics compiled by the North Carolina Department of Transportation report that 18.8 percent of all accidents involved at least one distracted driver. This resulted in:

  • 53,541 crashes
  • 23,467 injuries
  • 154 fatalities

You may even be surprised to learn that, according to the same source, distracted driving is involved in almost five times as many accidents (53,451 compared to 11,492) as alcohol.

But reality may be even worse than that. Since distracted driving is often difficult to prove without being self-reported by the at-fault driver, the actual figures may be significantly higher.

RELATED:Distraction Seems to Be Causing the Rise in U.S. Traffic Deaths

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Using a Device While Driving: What You Need to Know

Texting and Emailing While Driving Are Both Illegal—Most of the Time

According to state laws, it is illegal for drivers to read or write text messages or emails while operating a motor vehicle. This includes while stopped at a red light.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. The texting and email law does not apply to:

  • Those sitting in a legally parked or stopped vehicle
  • First responders (police, firefighters, ambulance drivers) performing official duties.
  • Use of a GPS system
  • Hands-free communication technology

Those who are caught texting while driving will be subject to a minimum fine of at least $100. In more serious situations, you could be looking at a reckless driving charge, or even criminal death by vehicle charges.

Talking on a Cellphone Is Legal, but not for Minor Drivers

Unlike texting and emailing, just talking on a cellphone is usually permitted for North Carolina motorists over age 18. In recent years, bills that would make North Carolina a “hands free only” state and fully prohibit handheld cell phone use have been considered by the legislature, but none have been adopted yet.

Again, there are some exceptions to this rule. New drivers under age 18 are entirely prohibited from cell phone use for any purpose while driving a vehicle, unless they are talking with a guardian, spouse, or emergency responder. Violations are considered infractions and subject to a $25 fine.

School bus drivers are also prohibited from using a cell phone while the bus is in motion, with emergency situations being the only permitted exception. Violations are considered Class 2 misdemeanors, with a potential fine of at least $100.

RELATED: What You Should Know About Texting and Driving Crashes

What Should I Do If I Am in an Accident Caused by a Person Who Is Texting While Driving?

If you or a loved one has been injured by a someone who was text messaging while driving, or otherwise distracted while at the wheel, contact law enforcement and file a report. Tell the responder that you believe the at-fault driver was texting at the time of the incident.

If there are eyewitnesses who can back you up, make sure you collect statements from them—or at least get their contact information. If you are able, collect additional evidence at the scene, such as photographs of the crash scene and damage to your vehicle and license plate numbers for any involved vehicles. Exchange contact info, driver’s license numbers, and insurance info with the other driver.

If you are experiencing any symptoms—however minor—seek medical attention as soon as possible. Make sure the doctor documents the cause of the injury. Keep good records of your medical expenses, as well as any other expenses directly related to your injury (rental car, lost wages, etc.).

Why You Should Hire a Personal Injury Attorney After a Distracted Driving Crash

Hiring a personal injury attorney with experience in distracted driving cases can be extremely valuable. They can:

  • Calculate how much your case could be worth, so you don’t settle for far less than you deserve. Your case value can include medical bills, the cost of other medical care, lost wages if you missed work due to injuries, and pain and suffering. Estimating long-term damages can be tricky, and you don’t want to underestimate the true cost of your accident.
  • Help you gather and organize your evidence to build a strong case against the other driver, potentially including witness statements, digital forensics, and more.
  • Negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf and prevent you from making costly mistakes or admissions.

Most initial settlement offers from insurance companies are far less than fair. And if you take that offer, you typically give up your legal right to pursue further compensation later. An experienced attorney can help prevent you from being taken advantage of by insurance adjustors, who are looking for the cheapest and quickest way to settle a case.

Most cases don’t go to trial, but are settled out of court. The insurance companies generally don’t want to deal with the risk of losing a huge jury verdict. When you have an experienced attorney on your side, you will be in a much better position to negotiate a fair settlement or take your case to court if need be. 

Contact Myers Law Firm if You Have Been Injured

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, the team at Myers Law Firm is ready to help. We have over 60 years of combined experience representing clients in personal injury cases, and always put our client needs first.

In North Carolina, there is a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. Hiring the services of an attorney as soon as possible can help ensure you don’t miss critical deadlines and lose your right to compensation.

Initial consultations for all personal injury cases are always free. To schedule, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at (888) 376-2889 or complete our online contact form today.

RESOURCES

Connect NCDOT. (2019). North Carolina 2019 Crash Facts. Retrieved from https://connect.ncdot.gov/business/DMV/CrashFactsDocuments/2019%20Crash%20Facts.pdf

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2019). Distracted Driving. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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