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What Are North Carolina’s Distracted Driving Laws?

Posted by Carl Nagle | Jan 16th, 2023 |

North Carolina’s Distracted Driving Laws

Did you know North Carolina sees nearly five times more distracted driving accidents than drunk driving accidents? No wonder some call driving while distracted (DWD) the new DWI.

Being a distracted driver is not only dangerous but also potentially illegal. However, the regulations on distracted driving vary from state to state.  

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is an umbrella term that includes any activity that takes your eyes or attention off the road while driving. Examples include:

  • Eating
  • Texting or emailing
  • Making a phone call
  • Checking a mobile device
  • Adjusting the A/C
  • Applying makeup
  • Looking up directions or following onboard navigation devices

Is Distracted Driving Illegal in North Carolina?

This may come as a surprise, but most instances of distracted driving, while unsafe, are legal in this state. Currently, North Carolina distracted driving laws only prohibit the following situations. 

  • Texting or emailing while driving: This doesn’t include reading caller ID information, such as the caller’s name or number. The prohibition also doesn’t apply if you’re an emergency responder or are lawfully parked, or you have stopped your vehicle.
  • Cell phone use by drivers under 18: Drivers under 18 with provisional licenses may not use cell phones and other handheld and electronic devices, including hands-free devices, except to call a parent, legal guardian, or spouse. They may also call emergency response operators, law enforcement, fire departments, and medical offices.
  • Cell phone use by school bus drivers: School bus drivers may not use cell phones for any reason while driving except in emergencies.

While other actions that distract a driver do not violate NC traffic laws, distracted driving which leads to an accident does still allow a collision victim to sue the distracted driver and collect payment for injury claims.  Driver errors caused by distraction allow a claim for negligent driving, and thus you can collect generous payment for injuries and losses arising from an NC distracted driving accident.  

How Does North Carolina Enforce Distracted Driving Laws?

There are two types of enforcement used by various states when it comes to distracted driving laws: 

  • Primary enforcement: The police can pull you over and issue a valid traffic citation if you violate state distracted driving laws.
  • Secondary enforcement: The police can pull you over and give you a citation if you break another law as a result of driving while distracted.

North Carolina uses primary enforcement. The police can pull you over and cite you even if you violate just one distracted driving law, such as texting while driving. 

What Are the Fines for Distracted Driving in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the fines for distracted driving are:

  • Texting or emailing while driving: $100
  • Cell phone use by a school bus driver: $100
  • Cell phone use by a driver under 18 with a provisional license: $25

Potential Future Changes to North Carolina’s Distracted Driving Laws

North Carolina House Bill 144, also known as the “Hands Free NC” bill, passed through the state House but stalled in the Senate in the summer of 2019. 

Had it passed, the proposed legislation would have made using all handheld devices and general “distracted driving” illegal. That means the police would have been able to pull you over for any behavior they consider distracting driving that doesn’t fall under an exception. The bill is on hold, but stay tuned in case it passes at a future date.  

Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

North Carolina distracted driving laws are complicated. If you or a family member have been injured in a distracted driving accident, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

At Nagle & Associates, P.A., we serve accident victims in Winston-Salem, NC, and statewide. We charge a reduced fee of 25% of the settlement and 33% for litigated or tried cases. The industry standard is usually 33% and 40-44%, respectively.  Our founding attorney, Carl Nagle, is a former insurance adjuster and former insurance company lawyer.  He now only handles motor vehicle crash cases for accident victims throughout North Carolina.

Call (866) 631-2228 for a free legal consultation by phone, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Our team will examine your case, advise whether you can seek compensation, and provide your safest and best plan of legal action.