Distracted Driving Laws in North Carolina
In North Carolina, distracted driving is punishable in certain circumstances. Distracted driving facts point to the fact that, in 2016 alone, these actions were the cause for over 50,000 traffic accidents. As injuries and fatalities involving auto accidents related to distractions have increased, efforts to end these types of behaviors have been put in place. Common driving distractions include the use of handheld electronic devices, but many other behavior are deemed dangerous for motorists while operating a vehicle.
With the rise of texting and driving and the use of other handheld technologies by motorists, it is important to be mindful of the consequences related to these types of behaviors. To learn more about the dangers of texting while driving as well as the distracted driving laws in NC, read the sections below.
What is distracted driving in North Carolina?
Distracted driving in North Carolina is defined as operating a vehicle without paying full attention to the activity. NC drivers who succumb to driving distractions such as texting and driving are more likely to cause or be involved in auto accidents, which may result in injuries, fatalities and even property damage.
Distracted Driving Laws in North Carolina for Handheld Devices
While NC does not ban cell phone use while driving for voice communication, most other interactions with handheld devices are classified as primary offenses. A list of all illegal driving distractions pertaining to the use of electronic devices includes:
- Pushing multiple buttons on a handheld device to communicate or browse the internet
- Reading email or messages received or stored by the handheld device, except for contact information
- Using any features of devices that require the use of either hand, such as smartphone applications
Furthermore, drivers must remember that certain cities in North Carolina enforce different distracted driving laws that may further limit the use of handheld devices inside vehicles. For instance, Chapel Hill has issued temporary mandates banning all handheld devices from being used by motorists. However, this particular ban was overturned. In any case, it is important to note that hands-free devices are generally allowed for motorists.
Texting and Driving Laws in North Carolina
Texting while driving is unlawful throughout the entire state on public streets and highways. Exceptions to the texting and driving laws in NC are outlined below:
- The driver is fully stopped or parked.
- The driver is a law enforcement officer, member of a fire department or an ambulance driver and is texting or using a device to perform official duties.
- The driver is using a navigation system like a GPS.
- The driver is using voice-operated devices or other hands-free technology.
As a general rule, no texting and driving is allowed in North Carolina, unless one of the above situations apply. It is important for motorists to be mindful that that texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distractions they may engage in while operating a vehicle.
North Carolina Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
Beginning in 2006, novice drivers received additional distracted driving restrictions in NC to address the high-risk driving population. Under these laws against distracted driving, all novice drivers who are younger than 18 years of age are prohibited from using their phones in any way while driving. This is a primary enforcement, which means law enforcement officers may issue a distracted driving ticket to novice drivers who have not committed any other traffic violations. Novice drivers are also subject to the penalties of texting and driving laws as they apply to all other motorists, which are also primary offenses. On the other hand, novice drivers may use their phones to contact emergency services, their parents or spouses without penalties.
North Carolina Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders may not text and drive while operating commercial vehicles. CDL motorists are also restricted from driving distractions associated with voice communication on cell phones. On the other hand, the same exceptions to texting while driving are applicable to commercial drivers in NC.
Distracted Driving Penalties in North Carolina
For most drivers, distracted driving penalties include fines of $100 and an infraction conviction. But texting and driving violations do not accumulate demerit points on driving records. Drivers must be aware that other penalties and charges may be expected. For example, reckless driving convictions and vehicular homicide charges are possible if a distracted driving accident results in a fatality.
A bus driver found guilty of distracted driving may be charged with a class two misdemeanor or an infraction for cell phone and texting violations, respectively. These motorists may also receive a fine estimated at $100. Moreover, novice drivers who are younger than 18 years of age that violate distracted driving laws will be faced with an infraction and a fine ranging between $25 and $100.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in North Carolina
While learning the facts about distracted driving may deter some drivers from committing such a violation, the best way to prevent distractions while driving is to develop practical strategies and be mindful of the consequences related to your behavior. Thus, the NCDOT offers tips on how to avoid driving distractions and strategies to remain focused on the road and the act of driving. Below is a list of suggestions that drivers can employ to stay safe and attentive while driving:
- Keep music volume at comfortable, non-distracting levels.
- Adjust the radio before you start driving.
- Avoid getting ready in the vehicle.
- Place pets in carriers.
- Ask children and adult passengers to be respectful of your driving.
- Have a passenger serve as the navigator, whenever possible.
- Avoid cell phone use while driving.
- Stop the vehicle before responding to messages or phone calls.
- Take breaks from driving if you are feeling fatigue.