Under 18? The Law Says You Can’t Use Your Mobile Phone In The Car

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Starting on December 1, 2006, it became illegal for a person under the age of 18 to use a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle on a public road in North Carolina, regardless of whether the phone is hands-free. However, there are exceptions and other peculiarities to this new law that should be understood.

First, the definitions: Along with prohibiting the use of a “mobile telephone” in certain circumstances, this law prohibits the use of “additional technology,” which includes any device that provides access to digital media such as a camera, electronic mail, music, the internet or games. N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (a)(1). Use of “wireless telephone services” is also prohibited, which includes a service that is a two-way real-time voice telecommunications service. N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (a)(3). The definition of a mobile telephone is technical, as you might expect, but it also prohibits the use of hands-free devices. A “mobile telephone,” is defined as a “device used by subscribers and other users of wireless telephone service to access the service.” N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (a)(2). The definition includes a “device that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not a permanent part of the mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a call without the use of either hand, whether or not the use of either hand is necessary to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of such telephone.” N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (a)(2). Sorry, no hands-free use.

The offense: Essentially, violation of this new law involves a person under the age of 18 years operating a motor vehicle using a “mobile telephone” or any “additional technology” associated with a mobile telephone while the vehicle is in motion. N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (b). However, the statute declares that the prohibition shall not apply to the use of a mobile telephone or additional technology in a stationary vehicle. N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (b).

Of course, there are exceptions: Use of a mobile telephone is allowed when it is for the sole purpose of communicating with the minor’s parent, legal guardian or spouse, OR regarding an emergency situation while communicating with a hospital, physician’s office, health clinic; ambulance service; fire department or law enforcement agency. N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (d).

The penalty: The statute expressly states that it does not authorize the seizure of a mobile telephone or additional technology, only that any person violating the statute commits an infraction and must pay a twenty-five ($25.00) dollar fine. N.C.G.S. §20-137.3 (c). No drivers license points, insurance surcharge or court costs will be assessed for the violation.

Educate yourself on this new law and make appropriate accommodations. This statute may also apply to those issued a learner’s permit or provisional license, depending upon the permit level and a person’s age.

Brad Champion is an associate in the Charlotte office of Knox Law Center. The firm’s website iswww.knoxlawcenter.com. Opening soon is the newest office in Denver located at Hwy 16/73- Waterside Crossing. He can be reached at 704-315-2363 or 866-704-9059 (Toll-free) or at[email protected].

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