Starting this week young drivers in North Carolina are
required to hang up their cell phones and drive. Other drivers soon could face
the same restrictions.
The new law, which was signed this summer by Gov. Mike
Easley is intended to address concerns about motor vehicle accidents that are
the leading cause of death for North Carolina teens age 15 to 17, The
Associated Press reported. According to recent studies, motorists who use
cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in a vehicle collision.
As of Friday, Dec. 1, drivers under age 18 are prohibited
from talking on any cell phone, hand-held or hands-free, while behind the
wheel. North Carolina has a graduated licensing program for young drivers, and
in addition to a $25 fine, violators face a six-month extension to their
No additional insurance points will be added for an
infraction and teens will be allowed to call parents, their spouse or make
emergency phone calls.
The new law, previously SB1289, gained widespread support in
the Legislature despite concerns from opponents who said it's unfair to single
out young people when drivers of all ages can be distracted by phones and other
things. Others said teens should still be allowed to use hands-free devices.
Easley said the new law sets an important standard for teens
"While all our motorists should avoid distractions and focus
on driving safely and navigating traffic, this law is particularly important to
our young drivers who are just learning the rules of the road," Easley said in
a written statement.
Currently, about a dozen states forbid young drivers to use
phones while behind the wheel. Only Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have
bans on all drivers from using hand-held phones.
The ban on all drivers could soon become reality in North Carolina as well. Earlier this year, lawmakers in the state sought to approve such a
Robert Foss, a senior research scientist with the Highway
Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill,
predicts similar efforts will continue to be brought up for lawmakers to
"A decade from now, talking on the phone while driving will
just not be allowed anywhere," Foss told The News & Observer.