Driving While Texting in North Charleston, South Carolina
There is no question that the invention and ubiquity of electronic mobile devices such as smartphones has changed our society dramatically. People are constantly connected with a wealth of information at their fingertips. Tasks can become simpler and communications briefer. While these devices have made the world a largely more efficient place, they have also made the roads far more dangerous.
Texting and Driving is Never Safe
The feeling of needing to be constantly connected and informed does not go away simply because drivers get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Despite widespread attempts at education and reminders regarding the risks of distracted driving, the number of people who are texting and driving continues to steadily increase, resulting in thousands of accidents and injuries.
Many people who text and drive pride themselves on being good multitaskers and, therefore, assert that it is not dangerous for them to text and drive. However, it is critical to realize that no one is good enough at multitasking to avoid significant distraction and slowed reaction times when reading or sending a text message.
Texting and driving involves all three types of major driving distractions, which include:
- Visual – A driver must take their eyes off the road to look at their phone, sometimes for five seconds or more. If on the highway, a car can travel the length of a football field while a driver is looking away from the road.
- Cognitive – When you are focused on reading or composing a message on your phone, you are not thinking about the act of driving a car.
- Physical – Using a handheld device requires at least one of your hands to be off of the steering wheel and some people even use both hands to text.
It is shocking how many drivers believe that they are talented enough to text and drive safely. In addition, many young drivers – who are likely impatient to read or send a text – do not fully appreciate the risks of texting and driving. This results in many drivers continually making the extremely dangerous decision to text and drive.
The Impact of Texting and Driving on Society
Statistics reported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicate the following regarding texting and driving:
- At any second during the day, an estimated 660,000 people are driving while using a cell phone or smartphone.
- Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 have the highest reported rate of texting and driving.
- There were about 391,000 people injured in crashes caused by texting and driving in 2015, which means close to 1,100 injuries occurred every day.
- 3,477 fatalities were reported in 2015 as a result of distracted driving accidents.
In addition to using traditional handheld devices, research by the National Safety Council indicates that hands-free technology is not much safer. The NSC claims that the cognitive distractions involved when using hands-free systems to listen to or dictate text messages is still great enough to seriously increase risks of an accident. Cognitive distraction can keep drivers from being fully aware of their surroundings, even if they believe their eyes are on the road.
In short, all forms of text-based messaging while behind the wheel are extremely dangerous and should always be avoided to keep you and others on the road safe. Unfortunately, you cannot control the actions of other drivers and texting and driving accidents continue to happen on a daily basis.
Holding Distracted Drivers Accountable for Harm They Cause
Drivers who are distracted by texting or messaging can cause devastating accidents and injuries. The following are types of collisions that regularly result from distracted driving:
- Rear-end crashes – Drivers who are looking down at their phones instead of ahead often do not realize that the traffic in front of them has slowed down or stopped. By the time they notice, it is often too late to avoid crashing into the back of the vehicle in front of them. Rear-end collisions may sometimes be referred to as “fender benders,” but these collisions can cause serious injuries to motorists in the front car. Common injuries in rear-end accidents include whiplash, back injuries, traumatic brain injury, broken bones, and more.
- Head-on crashes – When drivers are not looking at the road, they often are unable to stay in their designated lane. Sometimes, if a driver departs their lane to the left, they may cross over the double yellow line and into oncoming traffic, which can cause two cars to crash head-on. Head-on collisions are some of the most deadly crashes that can happen on the roads, especially if they involve one vehicle that is substantially larger than the other, such as a commercial truck. In addition, these accidents are often so serious because both cars are usually in motion at the time of the crash.
Many of these crashes result in life-changing injuries to victims, requiring extensive medical care, time away from work, as well as physical and emotional pain and suffering. In many cases, injuries from distracted driving accidents may cause permanent disabilities or impairments or a victim may not survive. Drivers who cause injuries and damage because they were texting should be held fully accountable for their actions under the law.
Because of the serious dangers of texting and driving, 46 states and the District of Columbia ban drivers from engaging in text-based messaging. South Carolina passed its ban in 2014, however, these tickets are not criminal offenses, are not reported on driving records, and have minimal fines. Law enforcement in South Carolina have been reported to be enforcing the texting ban lightly, as very few tickets were issued in the first two years the law was on the books. For these reasons, the texting ban does little to deter drivers from being texting and does nothing for injured victims. Therefore, injured accident victims must hold drivers liable in other ways.
Your Rights as a Texting and Driving Victim
When another person acts in a negligent manner and causes you injury, you have the right to seek compensation for the losses caused by your injuries. There are different ways to go about seeking financial recovery from a driver after a distracted driving crash, including the following:
- Insurance claim – When someone else is at fault for your accident in South Carolina, you can file a claim with their insurance to recover for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses. It is important to seek help from an attorney during the claim process as insurance companies will often try to get you to accept a settlement offer that is less than you deserve.
- Personal injury claim – If you cannot get a proper settlement through an insurance claim, you can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. The litigation process is extremely complicated and there can be a lot on the line, so you should always have an experienced personal injury lawyer protecting your rights.
Contact a North Charleston Distracted Driving Accident Attorney for More Information
If you have been hit by a driver who was texting or was otherwise negligent, you should not wait to contact a skilled car accident attorney as soon as possible. At The Hartman Law Firm, LLC, we represent the victims of distracted drivers, as well as people who have been injured in a variety of accidents. If you have suffered injury and would like to discuss your rights, please call our office in North Charleston at 843-300-7600 today.
What Are the Laws in South Carolina for Texting and Driving?
(A260, R270, S459)
AN ACT TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 56-5-3890 SO AS TO DEFINE CERTAIN TERMS RELATED TO THE USE AND OPERATION OF A WIRELESS ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION DEVICE, TO PROVIDE THAT IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO USE A WIRELESS ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION DEVICE TO COMPOSE, SEND, OR READ A TEXT-BASED COMMUNICATION WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE ON THE PUBLIC HIGHWAYS OF THIS STATE, TO PROVIDE EXCEPTIONS TO THIS PROHIBITION, TO PROVIDE A PENALTY FOR A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION, TO PROVIDE THAT A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION MUST NOT BE INCLUDED IN THE OFFENDER’S MOTOR VEHICLE RECORD OR REPORTED TO HIS MOTOR VEHICLE INSURER, TO PROVIDE THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS SHALL ISSUE ONLY WARNINGS FOR VIOLATIONS OF THIS SECTION DURING THE FIRST ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY DAYS AFTER ITS EFFECTIVE DATE, TO PLACE CERTAIN RESTRICTIONS ON LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS WHO ENFORCE THIS SECTION, TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY TO MAINTAIN STATISTICAL INFORMATION REGARDING CITATIONS ISSUED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION, AND TO PROVIDE THAT THIS SECTION PREEMPTS ALL ORDINANCES, REGULATIONS, AND RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES REGARDING PERSONS USING WIRELESS ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION DEVICES WHILE OPERATING MOTOR VEHICLES ON THE PUBLIC HIGHWAYS OF THIS STATE.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
Unlawful use of a wireless electronic communication device while operating a motor vehicle
SECTION 1. Article 31, Chapter 5, Title 56 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
“Section 56-5-3890. (A) For purposes of this section:
(1) ‘Hands-free wireless electronic communication device’ means an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, a personal digital assistant, a text-messaging device, or a computer, which allows a person to wirelessly communicate with another person without holding the device in either hand by utilizing an internal feature or function of the device, an attachment, or an additional device. A hands-free wireless electronic communication device may require the use of either hand to activate or deactivate an internal feature or function of the device.
(2) ‘Text-based communication’ means a communication using text-based information, including, but not limited to, a text message, an SMS message, an instant message, or an electronic mail message.
(3) ‘Wireless electronic communication device’ means an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, a personal digital assistant, a text-messaging device, or a computer, which allows a person to wirelessly communicate with another person.
(B) It is unlawful for a person to use a wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this State.
(C) This section does not apply to a person who is:
(1) lawfully parked or stopped;
(2) using a hands-free wireless electronic communication device;
(3) summoning emergency assistance;
(4) transmitting or receiving data as part of a digital dispatch system;
(5) a public safety official while in the performance of the person’s official duties; or
(6) using a global positioning system device or an internal global positioning system feature or function of a wireless electronic communication device for the purpose of navigation or obtaining related traffic and road condition information.
(D)(1) A person who is adjudicated to be in violation of the provisions of this section must be fined not more than twenty-five dollars, no part of which may be suspended. No court costs, assessments, or surcharges may be assessed against a person who violates a provision of this section. A person must not be fined more than fifty dollars for any one incident of one or more violations of the provisions of this section. A custodial arrest for a violation of this section must not be made, except upon a warrant issued for failure to appear in court when summoned or for failure to pay an imposed fine. A violation of this section does not constitute a criminal offense. Notwithstanding Section 56-1-640, a violation of this section must not be:
(a) included in the offender’s motor vehicle records maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles or in the criminal records maintained by SLED; or
(b) reported to the offender’s motor vehicle insurer.
(2) During the first one hundred eighty days after this section’s effective date, law enforcement officers shall issue only warnings for violations of this section.
(E) A law enforcement officer shall not:
(1) stop a person for a violation of this section except when the officer has probable cause that a violation has occurred based on the officer’s clear and unobstructed view of a person who is using a wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this State;
(2) seize, search, view, or require the forfeiture of a wireless electronic communication device because of a violation of this section;
(3) search or request to search a motor vehicle, driver, or passenger in a motor vehicle, solely because of a violation of this section; or
(4) make a custodial arrest for a violation of this section, except upon a warrant issued for failure to appear in court when summoned or for failure to pay an imposed fine.
(F) The Department of Public Safety shall maintain statistical information regarding citations issued pursuant to this section.
(G) This section preempts local ordinances, regulations, and resolutions adopted by municipalities, counties, and other local governmental entities regarding persons using wireless electronic communication devices while operating motor vehicles on the public streets and highways of this State.”
SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
Ratified the 5th day of June, 2014.
Approved the 9th day of June, 2014.