South Carolina lawmakers propose to fight distracted driving with the Hands-Free Act, which would make it illegal to hold a cell phone, computer or other wireless device while driving in South Carolina. Cell phones are a common source of distraction for motorists in Charleston and throughout the Palmetto State and the cause of many fender benders and more serious accidents.
Specifically, the Hands-Free Act would make it illegal for drivers in South Carolina to hold a cell phone or other electronic device such as a tablet or pad that “stores audio or video data files to be retrieved on demand”, or to watch a video or movie while operating a vehicle.
Car Accidents Caused by Texting
Texting while driving is already illegal in South Carolina. But police officers have said the current $25 fine is too little to be a deterrent, and the law is essentially unenforceable because drivers who are pulled over can claim they were using their phones to navigate or to make a call — both of which are legal, The State newspaper reported.
The legislation proposes to increase the fine for distracted driving from $25 to $100 for the first offense and up to $400 for a second offense. Two points would come off an offender’s driver’s license upon a first conviction and four points would be assessed for a second offense.
In testimony before a Senate panel, speakers from transportation safety agencies, trucking and biking groups and South Carolinians whose loved ones have been killed in distracted driving incidents hailed the bill as a step forward.
Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan told Senators about his Deputy Chelsea Cockrell, who was working as a crossing guard when a distracted driver sped through the school zone and hit her at 40 miles per hour, knocking her off her feet and sending her flying. “It’s a miracle — God was definitely with her — that she didn’t sustain any major injuries,” Boan said.
Transportation Committee Chairman Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, told The State in Columbia in January that he supports the measure. Grooms predicted that the legislation has a good chance of approval this year.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 21 states have hands-free laws. All are primary enforcement laws, meaning police may cite a driver for using a handheld cellphone without any other traffic offense taking place. South Carolina’s law would be a primary enforcement law, as well.
Dangers of Texting while Driving in South Carolina
Distracted driving refers to any type of non-driving activity that a motorist engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the task of driving.
According to the South Carolina Department of Insurance, phone use while driving is known to shift a driver’s attention more than any other form of distraction in a car. Writing, reading and/or sending a text message requires visual, manual and cognitive attention.
Texting draws a driver’s attention away from the road for at least 5 seconds. That means if you are going 55 mph, texting is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) says distracted driving caused at least 3,166 deaths in more than 1 million car accidents in 2017. One in every four car accidents is caused by distracted driving, the NHTSA says. More than 390,000 injuries happen each year in accidents involving distracted driving.
The possibility of having an accident when a driver engages in distracted driving activities is much greater than when a driver has his or her full focus on the road.
The National Safety Council estimates that 94% of teens are well informed about the dangers of texting and driving. But 34% of teen drivers surveyed by the NHTSA admitted to using their phones behind the wheel. This happens despite the fact that it’s against the law to text and drive in 48 states, South Carolina included.
Meanwhile, South Carolina ranks among the top 10 state for having the worst drivers, according to the NHTSA. The state ranks 5th in careless driving and 11th in speeding. South Carolina ranks in the top five in the nation for fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, and 982 people died in traffic accidents on our state roads in 2017. That equates to one death every nine hours.
Contact a Texting and Driving Accident Lawyer in South Carolina
Despite current law and multiple public awareness campaigns, South Carolina drivers continue to use cellphones behind the wheel and to text while driving. Our attorneys at Joye Law Firm have seen the harm caused by distracted drivers. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, evidence that the other driver was sending or reading a text at the time of the accident could help establish that the distracted driver should be held liable for your medical bills and related losses.
Our texting and driving car accident lawyers at Joye Law Firm investigate car accidents to determine who was at fault and who should be legally compelled to compensate our injured clients. We move quickly to obtain cellphone records when evidence such as lack of braking, slowing or swerving to avoid a collision indicates the likelihood of distracted driving.
If you think the South Carolina car accident that left you or a loved one injured was caused by a distracted driver, our personal injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm want to hear from you. We have offices in Myrtle Beach, Clinton, Columbia and Charleston. Our distracted driving attorneys are ready to handle your case anywhere in South Carolina.