Eyes on the road: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
People use smartphones more than any other electronic device, but doing so while driving is a deadly form of distracted driving that is plaguing our nation's roads and highways. Even though they serve many purposes, using a mobile phone while driving is considered more dangerous than drunk driving.
Considering you can travel the length of a football field in 5 seconds while going 55 mph, taking your eyes off the road to look at your phone or another handheld electronic device even for just a few seconds means you're driving blind and putting everyone on the road at risk of being involved in a car accident.
While drivers may be confronted with distractions from passengers, eating, drinking, self-grooming (e.g., putting on makeup, brushing hair, flossing, shaving), and looking at things of interest on the side of the road, cellphones are the biggest culprit when it comes to crashes caused by distracted driving. That's because texting while driving combines all three forms of distraction into one: visual, manual, and cognitive.
Distracted driving results in deadly crashes
April has been dubbed “Distracted Driving Awareness Month" by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you've noticed state and local police departments increasing their patrols at some point this month, that could be the reason why.
Viewed as a national epidemic, crashes involving distracted drivers resulted in 3,142 deaths in 2019. Data from the NHTSA also shows:
- 9% of the fatal crashes that occurred in 2019 involved a distracted driver
- More than 26,000 people were killed in crashes caused by distracted drivers from the period of 2012-2019
- Drivers ages 16-24 were the most likely to use an electronic device while driving, though drivers in older age groups were only moderately less at risk of doing the same
What's the distracted driving law in North Carolina?
According to North Carolina General Statue § 20-137.4A, it's illegal to use an electronic device for texting or emailing while driving without the use of voice-operated technology.
Under the law, drivers are allowed to read or send texts while lawfully parked or stopped, and headphone/headset use is permitted.
Viewed as a primary violation, drivers can be stopped and ticketed by police if they're observed texting or emailing while driving. Considered an infraction, the offense is punishable by a fine of $100 and any applicable costs of court. Likewise, no driver's license points or insurance surcharges are assessed for violation of the law.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports a 2021 version of the Hands Free NC Act has a better chance of passing this time around compared to its 2019 counterpart, which ultimately died after it failed to get a full hearing in the Senate. The bill, which would ban the use of handheld cellphones and other wireless communications while driving, is gaining support.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Kevin Corbin said banning people from holding phones while they're driving doesn't violate anyone's rights and is critical to the safety of everyone on the road:
“It’s not really protecting me from me; it’s protecting us from each other. Someone else doing something and wrecking and damaging your property or your family. So most folks tend to come around and realize it’s not just a personal liberties issue, it’s a public safety issue.”
How to prevent texting while driving
Even though the Hands Free NC Act hasn't been passed yet, there are some tips you can use to avoid all the distractions associated with smartphones:
- If you can't wait to read or send a text, pull over and park your car in a safe location such as a gas station or parking lot.
- When driving with others, have a "designated texter" to answer phone calls, read and write texts, respond to emails, and alert you of any app notifications.
- Activate airplane mode or enable the "do not disturb" function on your phone so that you don't receive any messages, calls, or notifications while you're driving.
- If you're too tempted to look at your phone while behind the wheel, store the device in the glove box, backseat, trunk, or someplace else that is not easily within reach.
- Avoid complacency. A lot of people believe they are the exception to the rule when it comes to texting while driving and think they won't suffer any consequences because nothing has happened to them so far. Even if you've never been stopped by police or gotten into an accident for texting, it doesn't mean you're being a responsible driver.
- Speak up. If you're the passenger of a distracted driver, kindly ask them to stop what they're doing and pay attention to the road. Even if this seems awkward, you'll wish you had said something if the driver ends up causing a crash that injures you and others - or worse.
Injured by a distracted driver? Tell them you mean business.
At The Law Offices of Richard Flexner, senior attorney Richard M. Flexner handles a broad range of car accident cases, including those that involve distracted driving. A trial lawyer who has triumphantly represented injury victims and their families in North Carolina for more than 35 years, attorney Flexner has earned a reputation for his integrity, tenacity, professionalism, and for building meaningful relationships with his clients.
If you or someone you love was injured in an accident caused by someone who was texting while driving or engaging in some other form of distraction, our law firm can help you hold the at-fault driver accountable and fight for the compensation you deserve. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, replacement services, your pain and suffering, and any other suitable damages.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation. Our office is located in Wilmington and we proudly serve clients in Pender, Brunswick, and New Hanover counties.