Dear Readers,

Do not text and drive. It is illegal in North Carolina and can have dire consequences.


Dear Carolyn,

I caught my teen son texting me while he was driving our family automobile. That reallyworries me. His father and I are divorced, and I tried to talk to his father about it. However, his father doesoutside sales and uses his cell phone while he is driving. I feel that this is a very bad influence on our son. What are the rules? What should I do?


Carolyn Answers:

Thisscares me too. I think that one of the most dangerous driving habits is texting or emailing while driving an automobile. In North Carolina, it is illegal to text or email while driving. North Carolina General Statutes 20-137.4A. It is not illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving in North Carolina, although when you cross state lines,you have to be careful because it is illegal in other states. It is illegal to input the number you are calling while driving.

I would show your son and his father an excerpt of the recent case known as Estate of Eugene Rotberg v. Russell Rutledge and Rutledge Commercial.In Durham County, a jury recently awarded $4.5 million to the estate of the bicyclist killed by a text-messaging driver. Yes, $4.5 million. Mr. Rotberg was riding his bicycle when Mr. Rutledge who was texting hit him. Rotberg was a man who had been happily married to his wife of 30 years. He had a grandchild. He had been a retired educator that had helped develop a physical education program. He was a valued citizen.

The driver, Mr. Rutledge, owned a commercial dooring company was on his way to a business meeting. He was using his telephone to text and email. When Mr. Rutledge hit Mr. Rotberg,he realized he had hit something, but did not know exactlywhat he had hit, and it took first responders 30 minutes to find Rotberg’s body because Rutledge was so distracted he didn’t know exactly where the accident had happened. The jury awarded $4.5 million. In addition, Rutledge had to spend 75 days in jail, as he did plead guilty to misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.

Here’s the solution. Place your cell phone in your trunk while you’re driving. That way you will not be tempted. We drove automobiles long before cell phones. We can live without our cell phone while we are driving an automobile.


Send your questions on family and divorce matters to “Ask Carolyn…” at, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC  27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions.  Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation.