Many people are now aware of the dangers of distracted driving, but drivers continue to engage in this behavior. Nationwide, every year almost 5,500 people die in distracted driving-related motor vehicle accidents.
In North Carolina, on average each year 119 motorists are killed in accidents where distracted driving played a factor and over 13,000 are injured. State troopers have recently stepped up enforcement in an effort to prevent motor vehicle accidents in North Carolina.
Efforts in North Carolina to Prevent Distracted Driving
Troopers began citing North Carolina drivers for texting while driving in 2010. Since then roughly 1,500 citations have been issued. Recently state troopers have been involved in a two day distracted driving campaign in an effort to not only deter drivers from texting while driving, but from other dangerous behaviors as well.
The State Highway Patrol says distracted driving, which has been reported to be just as harmful as impaired driving, also includes activities like eating, reading, adjusting the radio and grooming. Troopers may issue citations for driving behaviors resulting from these distractions like weaving or abrupt lane changes.
On the initial day of the campaign troopers issued 39 warnings and 39 citations in Halifax, Johnston, Wilson and Nash counties. Only two citations were issued for texting while driving, but troopers issued 16 warnings for the offense. The second day of the campaign will focus on Wake and Durham counties along Interstates 40 and 85. Fines generally range from $200 to $250 along with points on the driver's license.
Despite the relatively low number of citations for texting while driving on the first day of the campaign, troopers still consider it to be a major problem. One trooper said that, "I see a lot of people driving with their elbows on the steering wheel, texting with one hand."
Texting while driving remains one of the most dangerous driver distractions. According to distraction.gov, messaging behind the wheel creates a crash risk 23 times worse than that of an undistracted driver.
Hopefully continued efforts by the State Highway Patrol will result in fewer fatal distracted driving accidents.