- There are 1.6 million accidents each year due to cell phone use behind the wheel.
- 263 teenagers aged 15 through 19 were killed because of distracted driving in 2016.
- According to the NHTSA, approximately 660,000 drivers use an electronic device behind the wheel every day.
People love technology. One of the latest gadgets that people can be seen sporting isn’t attached to their ear, but they wear it on their wrist. Yes, you guessed it, the “smartwatch” Once Apple released their now wildly popular iWatch, technology lovers, particularly those fond of Apple’s line of products, raced to be the first to purchase one. Smartwatches of all types have become more popular as they have become more affordable. It is a safe bet that you probably have at least one friend that wears a smartwatch.
At first glance, the smartwatch seems like a hands-free device. Look again. You can hear notifications no matter where your wrist is located, but you can’t see the notifications unless you move your hand to within view. Attempting to look at or use the watch while driving is a bad idea because it can take your hand(s) off the wheel and it takes focus away from the road. Simply put, don’t try to operate your smartwatch while you are engaged in driving!
A UK-based road safety group, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), is telling consumers and drivers alike that smartwatches are potentially more distracting than smartphones and other mobile devices. While those who do not wish to be distracted while they drive can tuck a mobile device into a pocket, bag or even cup holder, the watch is generally worn at all times. A vibrating or sounding alert or flashing light can be irresistible for some.
While most states do not currently have laws specifically prohibiting the use of smartwatches while driving, they do have laws regarding distracted driving. These laws may not specifically mention smartwatches, but they do give law enforcement officers discretion in determining if a driver broke the law or caused a car accident in North Carolina as the result of paying more attention to their smart device than the road.
Distracted Driving Laws in North Carolina
It is illegal in North Carolina for any driver to text while operating their vehicle. New drivers (novice drivers), or those under 18, are prohibited from using their cell phones at all. Adult drivers are permitted to talk on their cell phones while driving. There are nuances to the texting ban that people should understand. Texting includes composing, reading or sending any type of electronic communication, and it’s considered a primary offense. This means that a police officer can pull you over if they see you texting and driving, even if you haven’t committed another infraction.
Drivers are permitted to text while they are stopped at an intersection or parked. Bus drivers are not permitted to use cell phones behind the wheel in any manner.
Distracted Driving by the Numbers
Distracted driving, including cell phone use behind the wheel, took the lives of nearly 3,500 people in 2016, according to the NHTSA. It has been discovered that 1 out of every 4 vehicle collisions in the United States is caused by texting and driving. You are six times more likely to cause an accident if you are texting while driving than if you are impaired while driving.
It is estimated that it takes approximately five seconds to read a text that you receive. If you are traveling at highway speeds and check a text, you can easily cover the length of a football field without looking. When you take that into consideration, it’s easy to see just how dangerous the behavior really is.
When it comes to teenagers, the problem may be compounded. 35 percent of teenage drivers admit to texting and driving, despite knowing that it is dangerous. A teenager is four times as likely as an adult to be involved in or cause an accident because they were using their mobile device behind the wheel. In fact, 21 percent of teenage drivers who were involved in fatal car accidents were distracted by their mobile devices at the time of their accident.
Penalties for Distracted Driving in North Carolina
When a driver in North Carolina is cited for texting behind the wheel, they are subject to a $100 fine if they are found guilty of the infraction. Novice drivers are subject to a $25 fine for using their mobile device while operating their vehicle.
Despite laws not being on the books banning the behavior, drivers are urged to unstrap their smartwatches or turn their notifications off while they are driving. Like any other reason that so many people give, checking a smartwatch isn’t worth the damage to person and property that can be caused.
Only you know yourself well enough to know whether or not you can avoid the temptation of your smartwatch while you are driving. If you don’t believe you can, take it off and put it back on when you arrive at your destination.
Speak to a North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Charlotte or elsewhere in the Carolinas, call our office. A member of our team will help you set up an appointment for a no cost case evaluation. We will let you know what we think and tell you how we may be able to help you. Don’t hesitate to see how we can help!