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The Daily Tar Heel

Texting, driving brings ?nes

While UNC freshman Danielle Gillyard doesn’t text and drive, she has many friends who do.

And she said she doesn’t think older people would be able to text well enough to do it while driving.

“I guess it’s a teenage thing,” she said.

That was the public perception when the law against texting while driving passed in North Carolina in Dec. 2009, but recent reports show that the majority of citations from the new law have come from an older demographic.

Since the law went in effect, 1,200 have been cited, said Brendan Byrnes, spokesman for the American Automobile Association.

More than half of those cited were 26 or older, with an average age of 28, he said.

“This study shows that this problem is much broader than just with teens,” Byrnes said.

“People of all ages are texting and driving.”

If caught, the fine is $100 for texting and driving, Byrnes said.

In Chapel Hill, there have been 10 citations since the law passed last year, said Lt. Kevin Gunter, spokesperson for Chapel Hill police.

The ages ranged from 19 to 52, and all but two violators were under thirty, he said.

Though the state issues a higher number of citations to older demographics, it does not mean fewer teenagers are texting and driving, Byrnes said.

“It is simply that there are many more older drivers,” he said.

Out of the 6.7 million drivers in the state, less than 10 percent are less than 23 years old, he said.

Media attention given to teens texting and driving stems from added risks given their age, Byrns said.

“The problem with teens texting and driving is just that teens are so inexperienced,” he said.

Arthur Goodwin, senior research associate at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, said in self-report surveys that the 18 to 24 age group tends to report the most texting and driving.

But all ages are increasingly relying on cell phones, making texting and driving a serious issue, he said.

“Older drivers have done it too, it’s not uncommon,” Goodwin said.

“It’s not a young driver or teen driver problem.”

The problem is growing with all demographics. From 2008 to 2010, the percentage of North Carolinians who admitted to texting and driving increased from 29 to 39 percent, Byrnes said.

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Goodwin said the results of the law have been undeterminable thus far.

“Something like half the states have texting laws in place but we don’t know the effect they have — if anything,” he said. “We don’t know at this point if the laws are working at all.”

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