What Are South Carolina’s Texting and Driving Laws in 2021?

woman texting while driving

Distracted driving laws vary from state to state, and because they can differ so much, and are often updated, it can be difficult to know what is actually against the law. Is talking on the phone allowed, or only if you do it hands-free? Is texting illegal, or merely frowned upon? We’re hoping to make things a little clearer for South Carolinians with this blog.

Texting while driving has been illegal in South Carolina since June 2014. The law specifically forbids reading, writing, and sending text-based communications from wireless devices while driving, which means other forms of messages, like emails, and other types of devices, like laptops, are banned by this law as well.

A law was introduced in 2019 that intended to ban holding wireless devices while driving, thus restricting all cellphone use to hands-free only, including phone calls. However, as of January 2021, the Senate Transportation Committee has not voted on the bill. For now, other uses of cellphones, including talking without using a hands-free device, are still legal, but possibly not for long.

Are There Exceptions to South Carolina’s Texting and Driving Law?

There are a few exceptions to when you can send or receive text-based messages while driving.

You can do so legally if:

  • You are lawfully parked or stopped.
  • You are using a hands-free device (voice-to-text).
  • You are trying to get emergency assistance.
  • You are transmitting or receiving data from a digital dispatch system.
  • You are using a GPS.
  • You are emergency personnel performing your official duties.

Texting While Driving is a Primary Ban

What this mean is, if a police officer sees someone texting while behind the wheel of a moving car, that is the only thing they need to be able to pull them over. However, they need a “clear and unobstructed view” of the driver texting.

This means the law can be hard to enforce, as drivers who are pulled over for phone use may claim they were using their GPS or another allowed action rather than texting, if the officer did not have a clear enough view to prove they were texting.

It is important to know that police officers do not have the legal right to take or search your phone, even if you’ve been pulled over for suspicion of texting while driving.

What Are the Consequences for Texting While Driving?

South Carolina has one of the most lenient laws against texting while driving. Offenders typically face no more than a $25 fine for a first offense. However, the true consequence of texting while driving is seen in the number of car accidents in our state.

In 2018, South Carolina ranked #1 in the nation for most fatal car crashes by miles traveled. That doesn’t even take into account the thousands of injuries every year from car crashes, many attributed to distracted driving, including texting while driving.

Car crashes cause serious injuries, many that takes weeks or months to recover from. Some car accident victims never fully recover. Texting while driving can have consequences that disrupt the lives of everyone involved, including the at-fault drivers, the victims, and their families.

What could be a $25 ticket could just as easily turn into tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills and lost wages if you get into a collision while texting and driving.

We Help Victims of Distracted Drivers

Distracted drivers put others at risk, and when they do so and cause actual harm, they can be held liable.

At Joye Law Firm, we help injured car accident victims get compensation when they are hit by distracted drivers. If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident caused by someone texting while driving, talking on the phone, or anything else that took their eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel, call our firm today. We’ll be happy to discuss the details of your case in a free, no obligation consultation.

About the Author

Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have nearly 250 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.