We’ve all seen the headlines: “Driver in fatal crash was text messaging.” Reading or sending text messages on cell phone while driving is a dangerous practice, and as of December 1, 2009, an illegal one in North Carolina.
Effective on that date, it will be unlawful to drive a motor vehicle and use a mobile telephone or other similar digital technology for email, texting, access to the Internet or games in North Carolina.
Driving while texting (DWT) is a topic drawing much debate. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203278404574415053448975972.html sets out many of the concerns and issues. It is not only a State issue — the Federal government wants to be in on the debate as well.
The North Carolina law sets forth limitations as to what type of electronic information is or is not allowed while driving. The law makes it unlawful to
- Manually enter multiple letters or text as a means of communicating with another person; or
- Read any electronic mail or text message sent or stored;
- However, this limitation does not apply to any name or number stored in the mobile telephone or other digital device nor to any caller identification information.
Thankfully, the prohibitions of this law do not apply if your motor vehicle is parked or stopped. This raises the question as to whether you can text and email while your vehicle is stopped at a traffic sign or traffic light. The law also is not applicable to emergency personnel. The law does allow the use of global positioning systems or wireless communication devices used to send or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system. The law also allows the use of voice operated technology which will grow in popularity.
If you have employees, and if they sometimes drive in the course of business, you’re going to need an employment policy on distracted driving. We’ll discuss that in our next blog post.