“It’s going to be a bit harder to enforce though since you can’t always see people texting,” said 1st Sgt. Andreas Dietrich with the North Carolina Highway Patrol Office in Hamlet. “A lot of this is going to depend on what the officer sees while on the road.”
Texting is basically the act of sending brief text-based messages via cell phones, over a cellular network.
Many cell phones come equipped with texting-specific keypads to ease the process.
According to Chief Deputy Phil Sweatt with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement agencies will be on the look out for drivers with both thumbs running across the phone or those pecking on keys and a phone never reaching their ear.
“The main objective of this is to deter accidents,” Sweatt said.
Sweatt said that recently nearly 30 percent of accidents are cell phone related and much of which is attributed to texting while driving.
As stated in the bill, it will be unlawful for any person operating a vehicle on a public street, highway or public vehicular area to use a mobile phone to text or check e-mail while in motion.
Checking a received text message is also encompassed by the new law.
There may be other violations that are tagged onto the citation as some unlawful movements can be attributed to texting, Dietrich said.
While texting, the driver must take their eyes off the road, as well as their hands, and Dietrich stated he has seen people drive through stop lights, off the road and even rear-end other vehicles while texting.
Although, there are exceptions given to those who are parked or at a complete stop, as well as law enforcement, fire department officials and EMS drivers.
The use of GPS systems, both factory and after market, is allowed as part of a digital dispatch system, caller ID, pulling up a number in a cell phone and voice operated technology is also permitted.
According to Dietrich, the highway patrol has pursued subpoenas for a driver’s cell phone records when involved in an accident, which includes texts.
“Anything that takes your eyes off the road is dangerous,” Dietrich said. “And can be just as dangerous as texting.”
Other distractions like talking to children in the back seat, eating, putting on make-up and changing clothes are also problems law enforcement officials face, according to Dietrich, this is when it would be best for someone to simply pull over and do what needs to be done.
“It’s the same principle (dealing with other distractions) but this is what the General Assembly is focusing on right now,” Dietrich said.
Starting today a $100 fine will be set in place and those found in violation will be responsible for paying the fine, plus court costs.
School bus drivers caught texting will receive a misdemeanor charge and a $100 fine if not more, according to the bill.
“It’s hard to tell what the impact is going to be right now,” Dietrich said. “It’s going to take some time.”
The bill was ratified and accepted on June 19, 2009.
Staff writer Bryan Stewart can be reached at 997-3111 ext. 15 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.