Texting and driving causes far too many accidents and near-misses. Distracted drivers played a role in over 50,000 crashes throughout North Carolina in 2019, according to data released this year. These accidents lead to tens of thousands of injuries annually, along with hundreds of deaths.
Keep reading to learn more about North Carolina cell phone laws while driving and what to do if you’ve been the victim of a texting and driving car crash.
What Counts as Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving involves anything that happens behind the wheel that is not directly related to operating a motor vehicle. The list goes on and on, but these actions fit into three buckets:
- The mind: Letting your thoughts drift from driving is enough to qualify as a distraction. Daydreaming or talking with your passengers can distract you from what’s happening on the road.
- The eyes: Taking your eyes off the road or your mirrors also qualifies as distracted driving. Merely glancing at your cell phone or looking at wildlife out your window distracts you from the task at hand.
- The hands: Moving your hands away from the wheel to do something unrelated to driving is another distraction category. Adjusting the air conditioning or eating a sandwich can affect your ability to drive safely.
There’s a low bar for distractions, but using a cell phone often sits near the top of the list. Phone usage can fall into all three categories at the same time, increasing the likelihood that it could lead to an accident.
The Relationship Between Cell Phones and Distracted Driving
A recent study by the Institute for Transportation Research and Education looked at how many drivers were using cell phones while driving in North Carolina. While the number of drivers talking on the phone dropped slightly from one year to the next, texting and driving was on the rise.
But not every number in that study involved illegal activity. State law still allows for some cell phone use in cars. While drivers under the age of 18 and school bus drivers can’t use a phone at all, adults are generally free to talk on the phone without a hands-free system. The freedoms, however, typically end there.
Here are the two primary distracted driving transgressions.
- Writing: Typing out letters to talk with someone is likely enough to step over the line when out on public roads.
- Reading: Taking your eyes off the road to read through a text or email can also count. It generally doesn’t matter if the message is fresh or saved.
There are a few exceptions, however. Some situations exist where phone usage might not constitute distracted driving in the event of a car accident.
- Emergency services using phones to do their job
- People that park or are legally stopped
- Drivers using hands-free technology that responds to voice commands
- Operators working a GPS device or dispatch system
How Can You Prove Distracted Driving?
First, it’s important to identify the four factors that constitute “negligence” in a personal injury claim:
- Duty: A person has a duty to act with reasonable care at all times while driving. Every driver accepts this duty when they get behind the wheel.
- Breach of duty: The driver did something that violated that duty. Texting could be a sign that the driver was ignoring the responsibility to act with reasonable care by putting others in harm’s way.
- Cause: The breach of duty, the driver’s texting, caused the victim’s injuries.
- Damages: The final step is often showing there were losses, like medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
Proving these different aspects starts with providing evidence that the other driver was using their phone:
- Phone records: Call logs, text timestamps, and social media activity can reveal what was happening right before an accident.
- Police report: If the other driver admitted to an officer that they were texting and driving, that would likely end up in the official record of the accident.
- Witnesses: Passengers and onlookers might have seen the driver looking through their phone.
Contact Myers Law Firm for Help
Evidence can lay a solid foundation for your claim, but it’s often just the beginning. Knowing how to use the information, what help you need, and how to navigate the process can be complicated. Finding experienced help can go a long way toward getting the recovery you deserve.
Myers Law Firm has a long history of assisting injured drivers in North Carolina while providing the personal attention that each case can benefit from.
North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. (2019). North Carolina 2019 Traffic Crash Facts. https://connect.ncdot.gov/business/DMV/CrashFactsDocuments/2019%20Crash%20Facts.pdf
Institute for Transportation Research and Education. (2019, September). The 2019 North Carolina Observational Survey of Seat Belt Use. https://www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/safety/ghsp/Documents/nc-seat-belt-survey-2019.pdf
Governors Highway Safety Association. (2021, April). Distracted Driving Laws by State. https://www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2021-04/DistractedDrivingLawChart-April21Edit3.pdf
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-137.4A. (2009).
American Bar Association. (2016, October). Negligence. https://www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2021-04/DistractedDrivingLawChart-April21Edit3.pdf
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.