Is it Illegal for Someone Under the Age of 18 to Use a Phone While Driving in NC?

  1. Criminal Disputes
  2. Is it Illegal for Someone Under the Age of 18 to Use a Phone While Driving in NC?

We all know that it is illegal to text while driving. But did you know that some individuals, based on age, are barred from using a phone at all while driving a motor vehicle? Under North Carolina law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle. What this means is that not only are teens prohibited from texting and driving, but they are also prevented from using any function of their phone while driving. This would include a ban on, for example, talking on the phone or browsing the internet. 

However, there are some caveats to this rule. First, the law does not apply when someone under the age of 18 uses their mobile phone in a stationary vehicle. In this context, stationary means that an individual is lawfully stopped or parked; in this scenario, someone under the age of 18 would be able to use their cell phone. However, this stationary exception does not apply when an individual is still stopped but still in operation of the vehicle. For example, if an individual under the age of 18 is driving along, stops at a stoplight, and starts using their phone, this would still be illegal. Although the individual’s car here would technically be stationary, because he is still in operation of a motor vehicle and is not lawfully stopped or parked, the person would violate the law. In this case, just having one’s foot on the break is not enough to make them “stationary” under North Carolina law.

Another exception to the rule that those under the age of 18 cannot use their phones while operating a motor vehicle, is in emergencies. North Carolina law states that teens can use their mobile phones while driving if it is done for the “sole purpose of communicating” when there is an “emergency.” The statute goes on to provide examples of what an “emergency” would look like, such as when there are medical concerns, unsafe roads, circumstances concerning a matter of public safety, or when there are mechanical issues that have created a risk of harm to a school bus driver or his passengers. So, for example, if an individual is under the age of 18 and is seriously injured, they likely wouldn’t violate the law if they called 911 while driving. In contrast, that same individual would likely violate the law if they were also using their phone to surf Twitter while operating their vehicle. 

Looking at the penalties and consequences associated with breaking this law, North Carolina law states that those in violation of the statute will be fined “no less than” $100. This means that the minimum punishment for this crime must be a fine of that amount and cannot be any lower. On the flip side, this also means that the amount one must pay in fines for a violation can be much higher than the $100 minimum. Moreover, the law goes on to say that violators cannot be punished with points being added to their licenses, and insurance companies cannot place surcharges on violators as a result of breaking this law. The only punishment prescribed in this case is a fine. 

If you find yourself in need of assistance with criminal charges in NC, no matter what they may be, 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).

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