More than a month after the ban on texting while driving went into effect, law enforcement officials say they are still struggling to enforce it.
The Chapel Hill Police Department does not have a uniform procedure to deal with people violating the texting ban. Officers don’t usually make a note of the violation unless it results in a crash, said Lt. Kevin Gunter.
But Gunter said he is hopeful for the long term enforcement of the law.
The Chapel Hill Police Department plans to train its officers to catch drivers while they text, Gunter said.
“I think it’ll get easier,” he said.
The N.C. General Assembly passed the ban this summer in order to decrease the number of accidents caused by distracted driving.
According to a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text while driving are 23 percent more likely to be in an accident.
“Driving is a visual task, and non-driving activities that draw the driver’s eyes away from the roadway, such as texting and dialing, should always be avoided,” the study states.
The study also found that texting while driving is much more dangerous than talking on the cell phone.
“While texting on a phone, your level of impairment is the same as being intoxicated,” said Arthur Goodwin, a senior research associate at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.
“There’s no question it’s very difficult to enforce. It’s hard for officers to tell if someone is texting.”
Nineteen states have passed bans on texting while driving, and more states are considering similar laws.
To support those efforts, the National Safety Council is promoting a new organization, FocusDriven, that advocates cell-phone-free driving. The two organizations are promoting laws such as the texting ban to make people aware of the dangers of distracted driving.
“We know that younger people tend to be overconfident in their driving skills,” said Deb Trombley, a senior program manager of transportation for the National Safety Council.
Although the enforcement of texting bans is proving to be difficult, FocusDriven is pushing for such legislation across the country by putting a human face to the dangers of distracted driving.
The organization’s Web site has stories about some of the victims of distracted driving.
“Joe’s story” is one about a 12-year-old boy who died when a woman who was talking on her phone ran a red light and drove her Hummer into the car that Joe’s mother was driving.
The organization also provides services for family members of the victims of distracted driving.
But some UNC students admit they are not complying with the texting ban.
“Everyone knows it’s a distraction, but it’s impossible to get rid of something like that. It’s like underage drinking,” said Michael Hamon, a junior English and public policy major.
“I’ve almost gotten into accidents before, but I’m not going to stop.”
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