North Carolina Car Accidents: Teens Ignoring Cell-Phone Law, Texting Behind the Wheel

Despite being on the books for more than 5 years, many teens are ignoring the law against cell phone use by young drivers. And far too many are engaging in the deadlier habit of text messaging behind the wheel, according to a new study by the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill.

The study watched 5,000 teenagers leaving high school parking lots. Observers watched teens in 2006 and then two years later, after passage of the law that bans teenagers from using cell phones while driving. Overall cell phone use decreased slightly, from 11 percent to 9.9 percent. However, the number of teens seen texting and driving increased by almost 40 percent — drastically increasing their risk for a traffic accident in North Carolina.
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Because of a long peer-review process, the report is just now emerging; researchers speculate the number of teens texting and driving has likely increased in the interim. Our Asheville personal injury lawyers know that a separate report last year found that about half of all drivers under the age of 35 send or receive text messages while driving. Just 11 percent of Baby Boomers report doing so. Fewer than 1 percent of those over the age of 65 report texting and driving.

Texting and driving continues to be cited by the federal government as among the most dangerous driving habits on the road. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

A survey of teens revealed most are aware of the ban — it’s taught in driver’s education. However, far too many simply choose to ignore it. Part of the problem with enforcement is the fact that cell phone use among adults is legal in North Carolina. Thus, law enforcement officers are left to try and discern the difference between a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old.

While 39 states have banned text messaging by drivers, only a few states have banned all hand-held cell phone use. And even with texting being illegal for adult drivers, it’s impossible to tell whether a driver is texting or dialing a phone number.

North Carolina: Young drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone behind the wheel. All drivers are prohibited from text messaging.

South Carolina:
One of the few states remaining that has no law against using a cell phone or text messaging, by either teen or adult drivers.

In 2010, more than 3,000 drivers were killed and 416,000 were seriously injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported. Because of inconsistencies in reporting, the true number is believed to be much higher.

-Those under the age of 20 are most at risk.

-Drivers who use a handheld device are 4 times more likely to be involved in a serious injury accident.

-A driver sending or receiving a text takes his eyes off the road for nearly 5 seconds. At 55-mph, a car travels the length of a football field.

-Drivers using a cell phone only use two-thirds of their attention on the road.

-Despite popular belief, there is no evidence that hands-free calling is any safer.

A teenager is involved in a North Carolina car accident every 23.6 minutes, according to the Department of Public Safety. With summer break in full swing, it’s a great time to have a follow-up conversation with your young driver about the importance of obeying all the rules of the road.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact the North Carolina injury attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.

Additional Resources
Study, Many Teens ignoring North Carolina cellphone ban, By Kerstin Nordstrom, McClatchy Newspapers, July 10, 2012.

North Carolina teen-driving agreement, N.C. Department of Public Safety
More Blog Entries:

Cell Phone Ban Would Reduce Risk of North Carolina Trucking Accidents, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2011

Trucking Accident in Columbus, North Carolina Causes Multi-Car Pileup, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 11, 2011

Photo credit garytamin via stock.xchng

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