Cover Story: NC - No texting while driving

By Jeff Atkinson - bio - l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Texting while driving is about to become illegal in North Carolina.  A bill in the General Assembly could be headed to the governor very soon.

Industry studies say the act of texting is growing at a rate of 250% a year, and increasingly it's leading to crashes which result in injuries and deaths.  11 states ban text messaging for all drivers while behind the wheel.

North Carolina may be the next.

For many people-- it's standard operating procedure when they get behind the wheel, having the cell phone handy to send or receive a text message.

We know it's not a good idea, but drivers admit to doing it all the time.

"It's dangerous. I admit to doing it sometimes.. I have to slap my hand."

"One of the worst things people do.. it's very dangerous."

"Every teen who has ability to text is guilty."

While 82% of 18-to-24 year olds are avid texters, according to Nielsen Mobile research, its not just for young people.  More than 50-percent of people who send text messages are over age 35.

And despite knowing it can lead to tragedy.  Evidence.. a trolley crash last week in Boston.. injured 50.  The driver slammed into another train.. admitted he was texting at the time..

Americans still do it.

A study out today found one fourth of cell phone users admit to texting behind the wheel..

The report also found that some of the worst driving while texting offenders live in states where the practice is already banned... in states where you see billboard like this.

So why is North Carolina bothering with banning it?

The bill's sponsor.. Representative Garland Pierce says it's about sending a message.

A lot of people are law-abiding.. and if they know it's illegal they'll abide by the rules.

This woman agrees.

"It will be hard to enforce.. but will deter some people from doing."

Technology is helping some parents.  A program called "Textecution" available on the Google G1 phone..

Designed to stop a user from texting and driving at the same time.

At 5 miles an hour.. you can text no problem.

Sitting still.. text no problem.

But accelerate past 10 miles an hour.. the text, e-mail and internet functions automatically shut off.

At 70 miles an hour.. no texting.

Again, the program's called "Textecution"..

It's only available on certain phones.. but they're working to make it compatible with other systems.

Studies show texting while driving is equally if not more dangerous than drunk driving.

Nine out of ten people think it should be banned.

What's the status of the North Carolina bill?

It's passed the House.. nearly unanimous vote.. in the Senate now.. in a committee.. has a good chance of getting to Gov. Perdue's desk quickly.  Violators could face $100 fine plus court costs.