What actions could be considered distracted driving in South Carolina?
Distracted driving has become a major cause of accidents and car-related injuries. The state of South Carolina reports more than 140,000 car collisions every year as per South Carolina Traffic Collision Factbook, many of which are the result of distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed the lives of 3142 people in 2019.
By nature, driving is extremely demanding and requires considerable attention and focus on the part of the driver. Once you feel like you’re an experienced driver, you get comfortable when it comes to shifting your focus while driving. That means you’re more willing to divert your attention towards different distractions because you think you can handle your vehicle at the same time, whether you’re on an empty road or a crowded highway.
Any time someone is distracted while operating a motor vehicle, there is the strong chance that they can cause injuries or death should they get into a major accident. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident involving a distracted driver, know that you can work with a South Carolina car accident lawyer to pursue a claim for all of your medical bills and other losses.
Regardless of your driving experience, the risk of an accident increases considerably when you’re distracted. Hence, knowing what actions count as distracted driving — and the risks associated — is crucial.
Distracted Driving in South Carolina
The South Carolina Department of Insurance defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from driving. From texting, eating, and drinking to grooming, interacting with passengers, and setting the car’s navigation system, anything that takes the driver’s attention away from safe driving falls under the category of distracted driving.
Unfortunately, South Carolina doesn’t have a comprehensive record-keeping for accidents related to distracted driving. In-fact, it is regarded as the third-worst state when it comes to tracking data on distracted driving. Many people also believe that the state lacks stringent regulations and laws to prevent distracted driving, putting everyone on the road at further risk.
While the use of cell phones is the leading cause of distracted driving in the US, the state has no restrictions on mobile usage other than texting. At the same time, it is important to note that NHTSA reports that all non-driving activities potentially increase the risk of car crashes.
When it comes to understanding what actions count as distracted driving, the best way is to divide them into three broad categories.
Manual Instances of Distracted Driving
Anything that occupies your hands, other than operating the steering wheel or other essential vehicle controls, counts as a manual distraction.
- Adjusting radio and climate controls
- Adjusting a child’s seat belt
- Searching through a wallet or purse
- Searching for a dropped object
Cognitive Instances of Distracted Driving
Anything that causes your mind to drift away or lose focus counts as a cognitive distraction.
- Road rage
- Upsetting thoughts
- Drowsy driving
The biggest visual distraction dangers are texting and using a device while driving, which is a dangerous habit. Looking at your phone diverts your concentration from the road and the other cars around you. Texting, in particular, is a potentially deadly distraction, one with a prevalence that has drastically increased the risk of injuries and deaths in the past few years. The NHTSA notes that it takes an average of 5 seconds to fully read a text, and in that time a car traveling at highway speeds can clear the length of a professional football field.
Other visual distractions include looking at navigation apps, looking for objects in the vehicle, looking at passengers, and looking at billboards, accidents, or other distractions outside the vehicle.
Increased Risks with Modern Driving Challenges in South Carolina
Increasing traffic congestion has become unavoidable in states like South Carolina. Traffic congestion is a problem in itself, but reckless commuters and distracted drivers increase the risks that an accident can happen under crowded road conditions.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information NCBI concluded in one of its studies that distracted driving has contributed to a large proportion of vehicle crashes. A study further showed that 32.4% of drivers are often involved in some kind of distracting activity, including using their phone to dial/text or looking at distractions outside the vehicle.
Collectively, that means traffic density, combined with distracted driving, especially in younger drivers, is a deadly combination. Researchers observe that the worrisome trend has increased the number of fatal injuries and deaths among experienced drivers.
Penalties for Distracted Driving in South Carolina
Smartphones and high-tech devices have made driving much easier than it was before. On the other hand, smartphone and text messaging now requires the use of a full keyboard that demands the full focus of the user, thereby compromising safety.
In light of the rising number of distracted driving cases, South Carolina police departments and highway patrols now issue tickets to drivers if they are caught texting while behind the wheel.
The fine in the state for texting while driving starts at $25. These charges are far less than first offense fines compared to most other states in the US. Also, the law allows a loophole in that a driver is legally allowed to hold their cellphone while driving to use navigation. Further, if a driver gets repeated infractions, it doesn’t increase how much they pay when they get a ticket, nor does it pose any risk of license suspension.
The Exception to the Distracted Driving Laws in South Carolina
One major exception to the distracted driving laws in South Carolina is that texting is allowed if the driver:
- Has lawfully stopped or parked the car
- Uses hands-free or voice messages
- Calls emergency assistance
- Transmits data using a digital dispatch system
- Performs official duties
- Uses a navigational system or obtains updates related to the road condition
Does a Distracted Driving Citation Increase Insurance Rates?
If you have been cited for reckless or distracted driving in the state, there is a high chance your insurance company will not receive the information. However, if you are in an accident because of distracted driving or a moving violation, your insurer will be informed, and your premiums will increase.
Your premiums depend on your insurer and your driving record. Reported citations for distracted driving in South Carolina can raise rates up to $283 annually.
Consult Auger and Auger if a Distracted Driver has Hurt or Injured You
Distracted driving is a major threat that claims thousands of innocent lives every year in South Carolina and other parts of the US. Texting while driving a vehicle, in particular, can lead to dangerous accidents and collisions.
If you have suffered injuries because of a distracted driver in South Carolina, attorneys at Auger & Auger can help you fight for your compensation and help you navigate the injury claims process. Our experienced car accident lawyers can help you claim compensation for cost of medical bills, your lost wages, loss of any future earnings, long term rehabilitation costs, and more. We can also help you seek a wrongful death claim in the event that a distracted driver’s negligence cost the life of a loved one.
Don’t hesitate to schedule your free, no-risk case review. Dial 800-559-5741 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation now.