Laws exist for cell phones

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 25, 2008

It is not illegal to drive a car and talk on a cellular phone in North Carolina unless you’re under 18 or driving a school bus.

That still doesn’t mean it is a good idea, according to local law enforcement officers.

Research requested by Representative Michael H. Wray (D-27th) after inquiries to his office found that only two laws have been passed in North Carolina concerning the use of cell phones when driving.

S.B. 1289 prohibits a person under the age of 18 from using a mobile telephone while operating a motor vehicle on a public street, highway or public vehicular area while H.B. 183 bans the use of a mobile telephone while operating a public or private school bus or activity bus.

Rep. Wray said even though there wasn’t a law for all motorists, he would encourage drivers to be cautious.

“Cell phones are used by most everyone from adults to children,” he said. “I would encourage anyone to be cautious and to keep in mind that they need to be focused on driving. We want everyone to be safe when they are on the roadways.”

While there is no broad-base law currently on the books in North Carolina, there was one filed in the 2007 long session of the General Assembly that would have prohibited the use of a mobile phone while driving. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary McAllister (D-43) and Rep. Paul Luebke (D-30), was referred to the committee on Judiciary I on March 15, 2007 and no action has been taken.

Despite the absence of such legislation, law enforcement agencies throughout the region warn that driving while using a cellular telephone is still dangerous and should be avoided.

“It’s just not a good idea,” said Troop A, District II First Sergeant Todd Lane. “It has been proven in many studies. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hands-free device or hand-held. It is the actual conversation that diverts attention from the roadway which is causing the hazard in itself.”

The First Sgt. also said he was concerned about the new trend of text messaging while driving, which he said is an “extreme hazard.”

In Jackson, Police Chief John Young said people talking on cellular phones were one of the biggest problems he faced.

“Easily eight out of 10 people I stop are talking on cell phones as I prepare to stop them,” Young said. “They are not paying attention to their speed or to running red lights or passing on the right, whatever the violation of law, because of talking on the cell phone.”

Young said he felt people would be safer and more attuned to traffic signs if they would avoid talking on a cell phone altogether.

“It is amazing how many people commit violations and are talking on a cell phone the entire time they’re doing it,” he said.

Windsor Police Chief Rodney Hoggard said he was also against the use of a cell phone while driving.

“I can see answering a phone and saying yes or no and then hanging up,” he said. “But for someone to talk all the way from Windsor to Ahoskie, just doesn’t make sense.”

Hoggard said he believed, from research he had seen, that driving while talking on a cell phone was as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

Murfreesboro Police Chief Darrell Rowe said he believed not using a cell phone while driving was common sense.

“Although we are all busy and cell phones help us conduct business, it is not worth getting hurt or hurting someone else,” he said. “Our roads are dangerous enough when you are paying attention, let along with you are trying to do other things.

“For the sake of your family, don’t use a cell phone when you’re driving unless it is an emergency,” he closed.