Truck driver violating the distracted driving law.

Is Texting and Driving Illegal in NC: Guide to North Carolina Distracted Driving Laws

In Personal Injury by Greensboro Attorney

According to the NC Chamber, the number of traffic fatalities in North Carolina increased by 21% from 2019 to 2022. The serious crashes and traffic incidents in North Carolina amounted to $86 billion in economic and quality-of-life costs. Unfortunately, many traffic incidents could easily be prevented by following traffic rules and avoiding driving while distracted. 

Is texting and driving illegal in NC? Read on to learn about the distracted driving laws in NC to avoid violating them. 

Distracted Driving Laws in NC

Distracted driving is when a driver engages in any activity that takes their eyes off the road and the wheels while driving. It is a serious offense that could have life-threatening consequences for pedestrians, drivers, and other motor vehicles.

In North Carolina, nearly 20% of traffic accidents result from distracted driving, just second from speeding and above drunk driving. Therefore, North Carolina has stipulated laws to prohibit texting and driving and other distracted driving. Some aspects of the law also restrict hands-free phone use, so it is vital to know the specifics of the law to avoid violating them.

Distracted driving can cause life-threatening consequences.


Is Texting and Driving Illegal in NC?

The North Carolina Distracted Driving law covers all activities that distract you while driving as illegal. Therefore, you cannot use your phone to text, call, email, or read messages while driving. 

It is crucial to know what the NC laws say about distracted driving to protect you and your loved ones on the road. It is crucial when filing an insurance claim because anyone injured in a distracted driving incident can use that information when filing a claim.

So, is using any device prohibited while driving in North Carolina?

Like any law, there are certain exemptions to the law, but these are special circumstances. State laws consider reading or writing text messages and emails illegal while driving a motor vehicle, even during a red light stop.

There are exemptions to this law, such as the following:

  • Texting or emailing when the car is legally parked or not in motion.
  • First responders and law enforcers performing their duty.
  • Navigating your vehicle with a GPS.
  • Hands-free use of communication and mobile devices.

If you are apprehended for texting or using your phone while driving, you will receive a minimum fine of $100. Depending on the circumstances of your apprehension, you could face serious charges, such as reckless driving or criminal death charges. 

Concerning the last exemption for illegal texting and use of phones while driving in North Carolina, you may talk on the phone while driving, except when the driver is below 18 or a new driver. The only time minor drivers are allowed to use a cellphone is if they are communicating with their parents or guardians or are in grave danger. If apprehended for this traffic violation, you must pay a $25 fine. 

Enforcement of distracted driving laws.

Primary vs. Secondary Enforcement

North Carolina implements primary enforcement of distracted driving laws. But what is the difference between primary and secondary enforcement?

In primary enforcement, the police officer can pull you over if they suspect you have violated NC distracted driving law. With secondary enforcement, they can only charge you for breaking the distracted driving law after apprehending you for another violation. 

Therefore, you should not be complacent even if you think you obey traffic laws. Traffic police could pull you over if they spot that you’re doing something illegal, whether checking your phone or reading emails at a traffic stop. 


Fines and Penalties When Texting and Driving in NC

A texting violation while driving in North Carolina comes with a $100 fine. The person in violation won’t have driver’s license points added to their driving record. It won’t affect their insurance rate, either.

But if the violator of this law is a school bus driver, it is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor (instead of a civil infraction). This violation entails a fine of at least $100. 

Drivers operating commercial vehicles face stiffer penalties and fines. For example, a truck driver violating the distracted driving law faces federal infractions. If a truck driver is apprehended for this violation twice in three years, their driver’s license could be suspended for 60 days. Meanwhile, a third conviction could mean revoking their driver’s license for 120 days. 

FAQs on NC Distracted Driving Laws

How much is a texting and driving ticket in NC?

Since texting and driving are illegal in NC, you will be charged a ticket worth $100 plus court fees. There is an additional fine of $25 if the driver is under 18, holds a provisional license, or was using a handheld device while driving. 

What is the NC Hands Free Law?

The Hands Free Law in NC stipulates that you cannot use your mobile phone while driving, whether to read or send text messages or call, as long as the motor vehicle is in motion. The only exception to this law is for law enforcers and emergency responders on duty. 

Is it legal to wear headphones while driving in NC?

Yes. Many US states regulate the use of headphones while driving. But in North Carolina, you can wear your headphones legally while driving. 


The distracted driving laws are no different from other state laws. However, you must learn what applies to NC to ensure you won’t pay fines or be charged for the violation. 

Distracted driving is a serious risk to yourself and other drivers (and pedestrians). Therefore, you must obey these laws to make the roads safer for everyone, especially with the rising rates of fatal road accidents in North Carolina in recent years. 

If you’ve recently had a traffic violation of this nature, a traffic attorney in North Carolina can help. You can use their legal expertise to avoid facing stiffer penalties or potential criminal charges, especially if you are not guilty. Knowledge of the law is the first step in staying obedient and avoiding legal trouble.