The Associated Press recently reviewed North Carolina court records to see how enforcement of the texting ban is going. The ban became effective in December of 2009, and the AP reports that police have issued citations to more than 1,200 drivers. Like most of the state’s traffic violations, this one isn’t cheap: Drivers must pay a $100 fine and court fees. No points are added to the driver’s license, though, and no insurance surcharge is assessed.
The surprising news is which drivers are getting those citations. While news stories and studies are persistent in pointing the finger at teenagers and young adults, the AP found that most of the drivers who’ve received tickets are over 25. A few are even over 60.
Commentators say more and more adults are finding it difficult to leave the office when they get behind the wheel. Staying in touch with work through e-mail is one of the biggest problems to fighting distracted driving, according to a representative from AAA Carolinas. Real estate agents, sales personnel and even legislators are among the worst offenders.
The study found that more than half of the drivers ticketed for texting were 26 or older. The average age was 28, skewed higher by the eight drivers over the age of 60.
The numbers of violations seems low to the AAA, and a law enforcement officer from the Charlotte area agrees. The law is difficult to enforce, he said, because it’s hard to tell the difference between a driver dialing a phone number (which is legal) and someone texting. Officers have to watch to see how long the driver looks down or how many times the driver taps the keypad.
This officer suspects most of the arrests were made because the driver confessed or because an accident investigation uncovered evidence of texting. The AP study did show that about 700 drivers cited for texting were also cited for other violations, including driving while impaired, reckless driving or driving the wrong way.
The answer may be to require hands-free devices or to extend the cell-phone ban currently applying only to drivers under 18 to all drivers — yes, even those over 60.
Source: Bloomberg, “Most NC texting charges come from drivers over 25,” 01/28/11