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Is the North Carolina distracted driving law passed in 2008 keeping up with changing technology? Some safety advocates would like to see a broader ban on all hand-held cellphone use while driving.

In 2012, 3,328 people died in distracted driving accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These were preventable deaths. Cellphone use and texting while driving have become a dangerous epidemic on our roads.

Nearby Gastonia, North Carolina, an elderly woman lost her life because of distracted driving. In February, the woman was walking down the street to check on a neighbor. A driver under the influence of prescription drugs and texting swerved from the road. She struck and killed the elderly woman.

This tragic accident did not need to happen. The driver of the car was criminally charged and will serve 14 years in prison. At her sentencing, she apologized stating she never meant to hurt anyone. Every day North Carolinians text while behind the wheel. They think they will not get in an accident or harm anyone. But there is a reason it is against the law.

North Carolina texting ban

In 2008, North Carolina passed a distracted driving law banning texting and emailing on mobile devices. It is unlawful to enter letters or text into a cellphone. Reading a text message or email just received or stored is equally unlawful. A violation is a Class 2 misdemeanor that comes with a $100 fine and court fees.

No drivers license points or insurance surcharges are assessed because of a violation, which limits the effectiveness of the law. The number of texting while driving citations issued in 2013 was only 1,435. That is in a state that has 1,200 troopers.

Law enforcement officers have expressed frustration that the law has not kept up with technology. For example, it is legal to post on Facebook or play a game through a phone app. A new push is on to strengthen the law to prohibit all activity on hand-held devices while driving. A law that bans all hand-held cellphone use would end the need to investigate whether the person was texting or emailing.

Liability and evidentiary issues

In addition to criminal penalties, a civil lawsuit is another means for holding a negligent driver responsible. Following a fatal car accident, a wrongful death lawsuit may be necessary.

In many cases, it might be hard to determine what actually caused an accident. Rarely does a negligent driver admit his or her conduct. A driver who was texting or reading an email right before a crash may lie and give the excuse of reaching for sunglasses. An investigation could uncover a text message time stamped and saved on a phone that would provide evidence of not only negligent, but also criminal conduct.

When seriously injured in an accident, you may suffer shock and not understand what happened. A stay in the hospital is also disorienting. While you recover from your injuries, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights. If a negligent driver caused the accident, money may be available to cover hospital bills, wages from missed work and suffering caused by the crash.

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Rick McManus

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Meredith Eastridge

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In October 2010, my pregnant wife and I were in a horrendous accident in Charlotte, NC, caused by a drunk driver. We were struck head on by the driver travelling at nearly 100mph and sustained many life threatening injuries

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Charles Monnett was very helpful and lead me through the whole legality of my case. Charles was always available and informative on this process.

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