Say one day you decide to ride your horse. You saddle him, put on his bridle, and climb aboard. You also decide to ride on the public road outside your house. While you are riding, you receive a text message from a friend and decide to respond. Did you just commit a crime?
Surprisingly, yes. In North Carolina, it is illegal for someone to operate a “vehicle” on a public road while physically texting or reading text messages. While it may seem strange, NC courts have ruled that this law also applies to horses; a horse is considered a “vehicle.” Therefore, if an individual is typing out a text or reading a text while on horseback, and is on a public road, they could be charged with texting and driving. Technically, NC traffic laws apply to every individual “riding an animal” on the highway. So, although a horse might be the first animal that comes to mind when thinking about “riding an animal,” it’s conceivable that an individual could be charged when texting and riding any animal.
Another interesting part of this rule is that the animal has to be in motion for an individual to be committing a traffic violation. Like the requirements with a car, to be charged for “texting and driving” while riding a horse, the horse has to be moving. It doesn’t necessarily matter how fast this speed is, all that is required is that the horse/vehicle be in motion. So, what this means is that, if one is texting and their horse is stationary, they cannot be charged with violating the texting and driving statute.
Furthermore, another requirement of the texting and driving statute is that, for it to apply, you must be riding your horse on a public road. For a road to be public, it essentially must be open to the public to use for vehicular traffic; the road cannot be privately owned. What this means in practice is that, even if one meets all the other requirements for texting while riding a horse, if they happen to be on a private, non-public road, they cannot be charged.
Overall, even if it may seem odd, in NC, it is illegal to “text and drive” while riding a horse–or any other animal for that matter. Because a horse is considered a vehicle, the same traffic laws that prohibit certain activities while driving a car, also apply while riding a horse. This is not just limited to texting and driving either. The same goes for illegal activities such as drinking and driving. So, a good rule of thumb is, if it is illegal to do while driving a car, it’s highly likely that the same activity is illegal to do while riding a horse.
So, if you find yourself in need of assistance with criminal charges in NC–may they be from texting and driving while riding a horse, or some other more common criminal charge–please contact our office. The lawyers at King Law can help you get a better sense of where you stand. We invite you to come in and talk with one of our attorneys in person or over the phone during a consultation. Our number is 888-748-KING (5464).