Is it Legal to Talk on the Phone While Driving in North Carolina?

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: How does the law of contributory negligence play a role in my case?


Have you ever seen your Uber driver or friend talking on the phone while driving and wondered, “Wait, isn’t that illegal in North Carolina?” While you probably know that North Carolina’s distracted driving law prohibits texting while driving, what does it say about talking on the phone while driving?

text-messaging-Charlotte-Monroe-Statesville-Distracted-driver-Personal-injury-lawyer-300x225Is talking on the phone while behind the wheel illegal in North Carolina? Well, it depends on your age. North Carolina law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from talking on a cellphone while driving unless they are having a conversation with their spouse, parent, legal guardian, or emergency responders.

Adults, meanwhile, are allowed to talk on the phone while operating a motor vehicle regardless of who is on the other end of the line.


Distracted Driving Law in North Carolina

The distracted driving law – codified NC GS 20-137.4A – makes it unlawful to manually enter, send, or read emails or text messages using your cellphone. There are no limitations on talking on the cellphone while driving for motorists over the age of 18.

Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from making or receiving calls while behind the wheel except to communicate with their parents, legal guardians, spouse, or emergency responders such as law enforcement, ambulance, or fire department.

Motorists are permitted to use a cellphone while operating a vehicle if:

  • Their motor vehicle is lawfully stopped or parked;
  • The driver is using a hands-free system, GPS, or any wireless device that is part of a dispatch system;
  • The driver is a law enforcement officer, ambulance operator, or member of the fire department; or
  • The driver is reading a name or number on the phone.


Handheld Devices in North Carolina’s Distracted Driving Law

Many states ban the use of handheld cellphones while driving, but North Carolina is not one of them. In 2019, legislators attempted to make it illegal to use handheld devices, including a cellphone, to make or receive calls while operating a vehicle. However, the bill died in a Senate committee, according to The News & Observer.

Currently, North Carolina law prohibits the use of cellphones or other mobile devices for school bus drivers unless the bus is stopped or parked or the driver is using a cellphone in emergency situations.

Also, the law prohibits drivers of specific commercial vehicles from using handheld devices while operating a vehicle. North Carolina’s state ban also incorporates federal prohibitions for commercial vehicles involving interstate commerce.


Is Texting at a Red Light Permitted in North Carolina?

No. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot text at a red light because being stopped at a red light is still considered “operating a motor vehicle” in North Carolina.

When motorists text at a red light, they may not notice when the light turns green and may end up causing a preventable crash. Texting while driving is never a safe – or lawful – decision in North Carolina. Not only do you risk causing a car accident, but you may also face a traffic violation.

If you were involved in a vehicle crash caused by distracted driving or the use of cellphones, do not hesitate to speak with a Charlotte car accident attorney. Our lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, will help you determine liability in your distracted driving crash and pursue the compensation you deserve. Call (704) 370-2828 to receive a video or phone consultation with our lawyers to explore your legal options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.







The skilled personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to maximizing the financial recovery and obtaining justice for every personal injury client injured by another party’s negligence. The issues our personal injury clients may be facing include, but are not limited to, slip and fall injuries, wrongful death, product liability, catastrophic injuries, dog bite claims, car and truck accident injuries, motorcycle injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), nursing home negligence, spinal cord injury, boating accidents, and defective medical device injury. Our personal injury attorneys understand the devastating impact such an injury can have on a person’s life, and that the effects so often go beyond physical pain and suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are dedicated to helping clients determine the strength of their claims, and to aggressively pursuing the means necessary to achieve the best possible end result for each client’s particular situation.





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