Law enforcement kicks off national Teen Driver Safety Week in the Triad

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KERNERSVILLE, N.C. -- Several law enforcement agencies joined people personally affected by distracted-driving deaths to speak to teenagers at East Forsyth High School.

Tammy Garlock, of Matthews, shared the story of her 17-year-old son Brian who died in 2008.

"He also was trying to make a phone call at the same time he was making a left-hand turn so he didn't see or realize that he was pulling out in front of two pickup trucks," Garlock said. "Our phones have gotten smarter but I'm not so sure that we're as smart as we need to be about when it's appropriate to use it."

Trooper Brandon Baker said that family member death notifications have certainly increased over the last decade as more distractions have developed and the usage of smartphones.

"Often times outside of the texting and driving and email while driving, we'll see folks that are engaged in other distracting activities whether that's updating their social media, actually talking on a cellphone, dealing with a passenger, things like that," Baker said.

The current statue against texting and driving only covers messaging on a device or email while the vehicle is in motion. Distracted driving such as navigation or social media scrolling is not included.

§ 20-137.4A. Unlawful use of mobile telephone for text messaging or electronic mail.

  • (a) Offense. - It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area while using a mobile telephone to:
    • (1) Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
    • (2) Read any electronic mail or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored in the device nor to any caller identification information.

Baker said even with the use of a Bluetooth device, drivers can still be distracted cognitively.

"Placing their phone in an inaccessible area whether that be a trunk a glove compartment, somewhere where they can't immediately reach it, can make a big difference too," Baker said.

Last year there were 174 fatalities for the state of North Carolina relating to distracted driving; 15 in Guilford County, one in Randolph County and four in Forsyth County.

Baker says that approximately 12 percent of our state's annual death rate is related to distracted driving.