Latest Driving Distraction: Selfies Cause Car Accidents

If phone conversations, Internet use and texting while driving aren’t dangerous enough, taking photographs with phone cameras has become the latest hazard, CNN reported recently. Many young drivers reportedly are taking “selfies,” short for self-portraits, behind the wheel. In fact, the photo-sharing site Instagram has thousands of photos that show people driving their cars. A Twitter search also reveals thousands of pictures from the driver’s seat.

While the fad may seem amusing, the reality is that photo-taking entails using at least one hand to work a camera on a mobile device.  A driver who is snapping a selfie is not concentrating on the road while accessing the camera app, framing the shot and hitting the shutter button. In the time it takes to produce a photo, a devastating collision can occur.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 11 percent of all drivers under 20 years of age involved in fatal car accidents were distracted. That figure rises to 21 percent for drivers between the ages of 15 to 19. When it comes to driving, smartphone use can be deadly, especially for young drivers.

A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute demonstrated that text messaging increases the likelihood of an automobile crash by 23 times. With all of the steps required in taking pictures, the risk of a serious accident could be even higher.

It’s no wonder that governments and advocacy groups are united in trying to raise awareness about distracted driving. Although texting has been the primary focus, the growing popularity of selfies, particularly among young drivers, deserves serious attention, too. With the NHTSA’s figure of approximately 660,000 drivers using electronic devices each day across the United States, educating the public on the threats of distracted driving is critical.

South Carolina Laws

South Carolina is one of the few states without a statewide ban on distracted driving. However, in early February, Greenville became the latest city to adopt a distracted driving ordinance. This law makes it illegal to use any handheld device while operating a motor vehicle.

Drivers who are caught using handheld mobile devices will be subject to a graduated penalty system based on prior convictions. The town can fine the offender and even seize the mobile device.

At least 13 cities and towns in South Carolina prohibit texting while driving. These laws vary from place to place.

If a distracted driver causes an accident that results in injuries, the driver may be held responsible for the harm they cause.