Almost every state in the country has some form of distracted driving law on the books. In North Carolina, we have primary laws that ban all cell phone use for bus drivers and novice drivers (those under 18), as well as a prohibition on texting for drivers of all ages. South Carolina bans texting for drivers of all ages. In total, 46 states plus the District of Columbia ban texting by drivers. However, only 14 states ban the use of any mobile device while operating a vehicle.
Every year, thousands of people continue to die in distracted driving car accidents nationwide. In 2015, the last year for which federal data is available, it was 3,400 lives lost. That figure is likely lower than reality because distraction is not as easy to measure as, say, alcohol impairment. The latest statistics show that in the last year, traffic deaths have occurred at a rate faster than at any point in the last 50 years.
Now, California is taking a hard line on the issue. The New York Times reported that effective January 1st, the state no longer allows drivers to hold any type of mobile device while operating a vehicle. The measure builds on an earlier statute that banned both talking and texting but failed to outlaw the use of apps like Facebook and Twitter or streaming video. The laws that exist were mostly written before the age of the smartphone. That’s why they don’t specifically reference the kinds of features that now compete for the attention of motorists who should be focusing on the road. Interactive features now are standard on these mobile devices, and there are many from which to choose. If states want to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to distracted driving, they are going to have to update their laws with modern technology in mind.