During the first four months of 2018, the Highway Patrol of South Carolina recorded 993 distracted-driving collisions. Twelve of these crashes were due to texting while driving, and 13 involved fatalities. In 2017, South Carolina again ranked first in the nation for highest fatality rate per miles traveled. Its 1.88 deaths per 100 million miles driven were almost twice the national average, according to the Institute for Highway Safety.
As a personal injury firm, Auger & Auger is very familiar with the dangers posed by distracted drivers; and the devastating impact these actions have had on the lives of others. We feel strongly that spreading awareness about this dangerous practice can change habits and save lives. We encourage you to share this post with those near and dear to you.
What is the Definition of Distracted Driving?
Essentially, distracted driving includes any activity which diverts your attention from the road; such as eating and drinking, grooming, changing music, taking your hands off the wheel, interacting with your kids in the back seat, etc. However, the most serious distraction has become the use of electronic devices while behind the wheel – which has taken our lack of attention to a whole new level.
How Does South Carolina Code Law Stand Up?
What we currently have in place in South Carolina is equivalent to a very minimal “texting ban.” SECTION 56-5-3890 was enacted in June of 2014 to restrict certain use of ‘wireless electronic communication devices’ while operating a motor vehicle; additionally setting penalties and limitations of law enforcement.
‘Devices’ are defined as a telephone, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a text-messaging device or computer; allowing you to wirelessly communicate without holding the device in either hand. You may use either hand to activate or deactivate a function of the device.
In particular, the following actions are currently illegal:
Composing, sending, or reading a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on South Carolina public streets and highways; including a text or SMS message, an instant message, or an electronic mail message.
Exemptions of the Current Distracted Driving Law
Violations of the existing law do not constitute a criminal offense, nor do they allow for a custodial arrest. Additionally, they are not allowed to be included in the offender’s DMV records or reported to their insurance carrier.
Furthermore, exceptions to this law occur when the driver is:
- A public safety officer performing official duties;
- Lawfully parked or stopped (traffic signals, etc.);
- Using a hands-free wireless electronic communications device;
- Using the device to request emergency assistance;
- Employing a GPS device for navigation or searching for related traffic conditions information;
- Sending or receiving data as part of a digital dispatch system.
How H4480 Plans to Restructure Distracted Driving
On January 9, 2018, a new bill (H4480) was introduced in the South Carolina House with the intention of increasing restraint of cellular phone use while driving. The new bill was still in debate as the House adjourned on May 10, 2018. Though a few special sessions were held throughout the year, H4480 was not on the calendar. Therefore it will have to be reintroduced in the next House session beginning on the 2nd Tuesday in January of 2019.
The potential effects of an approved H4480 would include the following:
- The proposed law would be redefined as “Driving under the Influence of an Electronic Device, or DUI-E.”
- Holding the cell phone or electronic device while driving would become illegal – even at stop signs and traffic signals.
- The first fine would increase from $25.00 to $100.00; recurring violations would each incur a $300 fine.
- Enforcement officers would be allowed to stop the driver for violations.
- A record of these citations would be maintained by SCDMV.
- A point system would be established to add 2 points to the offender’s license for each violation.
How YOU Can Help Change the Statistics!
- R-E-P-E-A-T daily: Texting while driving is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
- Share these 100 Facts Your Teens Need to Know about distracted driving.
- Take the Department of Motor Vehicles Distracted Driving Pledge.
- Introduce #justdrive to your Twitter friends.
We Are Here When You Need Us!
If you or a loved one has been involved in a distracted-driving collision or other motor vehicle accident, Auger & Auger would be happy to speak to you about how we may be able to help. Our firm is experienced in dealing with South Carolina car accidents. We also have expertise with local laws and regularly fight for the rights of injured South Carolinians. We will fight for you and do our best to help you get the compensation you deserve under the law – it’s what we do!