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Sunday August 14th

Keep your eyes on the road!

Drivers face $100 ?nes if caught sending a text

A statewide ban on text messaging and e-mailing while driving goes into effect today. Photo illustration by Margaret C. Williams
Buy Photos A statewide ban on text messaging and e-mailing while driving goes into effect today. Photo illustration by Margaret C. Williams

Starting today, N.C. drivers will need to keep their fingers wrapped around their steering wheels instead of planted on their cell phone buttons.

Today is the first day of a statewide ban on text messaging and e-mailing while driving. Violators will be issued $100 fines.

Legislators passed the bill instituting the ban this summer in order to help cut down on accidents caused by distracted driving.

 

Texting and driving legislation

Bans using a cell phone for e-mail or text messaging while operating a vehicle on a public street, highway or other driving area.

Defines texting and e-mailing as manually entering multiple letters or text in order to communicate with another person and reading any electronic mail or text message, excluding contact information.

The fine for violating the ban is $100.

Exceptions

If the vehicle is parked or stopped

While performing official duties as a law enforcement officer, member of a fire department or operator of a public or private ambulance

Voice-operated technology

Global positioning systems and similar technology

However, enforcing it could be difficult.

It will be easy to detect people who bring their cell phone up to the steering wheel when they text, said N.C. Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, a sponsor of the legislation.

However, those who hold their phone in their lap or another place out of sight while texting could be more difficult to catch, he acknowledged.

“If I was texting and someone drove up, I’d just throw my phone into the trunk,” said freshman Jackie Vincent.

Too many people still don’t know about the ban and many who do might violate it often, at least initially, said Lt. Kevin Gunter, Chapel Hill Police Department spokesman.

Teenage drivers are the most common culprits, Pierce said.

“They’re clued into the technology.”

Vincent said she has texted while driving and has many friends who text and drive regularly.

She said she has one friend who drives with one hand on the wheel while looking down at her phone in her lap.

“It’s not fun to be in a car when my friends are texting,” Vincent said.

Even if officers are able to catch people violating the ban, it also will be a challenge to prove in court that’s what they were doing, and not dialing a number, which is permitted, said Sgt. Jeff Gordon, N.C. State Highway Patrol public information officer.

Gordon said that the $100 fine could be enough to dissuade many people.

“That’s a substantial amount of money,” he said. “I do think it will deter people.”

 

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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