The North Carolina Highway Patrol has designated June as the official “No Texting, Just Driving” educational awareness month statewide. The new safety campaign — enforcement of which will continue indefinitely — will educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving.

State troopers will focus on educating the public on the dangers of texting while driving through various means including radio and television public service announcements, “No Texting, Just Driving” presentations, and the distribution of educational awareness literature, including posters, windshield stickers and pledge cards.

First Sgt. Charles Johnston, head of the N.C. Highway Patrol’s Kinston office told the Jackson Daily News that the safety campaign was prompted by the results of a 2011 cell phone survey that showed in the U.S., 196 billion text messages were either sent or received last year, up 50% from 2009. Statistics also showed that in 2008 nearly 6,000 people died and more than half a million were injured in North Carolina crashes involving a distracted driver.

“Obviously a lot of people are doing it,” Johnston said. “It’s dangerous. It’s hazardous. It needs to be stopped.”

Studies that show it takes about 4 ½ seconds to either read or send a text message, Johnston said. That’s the same amount of time it takes to travel 100 yards at 55 mph. “It would be like travelling the length of a football field blindfolded,” he said. “And you certainly wouldn’t want to do that.”

“The highway patrol is committed to saving lives on our North Carolina highways,” said Col. Michael Gilchrist, commander of the N.C. Highway Patrol. “No one person or organization can, by themselves, change this behavior. It is going to take the commitment from everyone to make this change.”

It is currently a violation of North Carolina law to text or email while operating a motor vehicle on the highway. A conviction could result in a $100 fine and court costs.