We’ve all seen it before- the driver of the vehicle in front of us suddenly veers into the wrong lane, overcorrecting their steering to make up for the fact that they were on their phone. It’s that sad but true game we all play in our heads on our daily commute home, “Is the driver in front of me drunk or distracted?” And ironically, guess which activity is actually more dangerous to the average driver?
You guessed it, distracted driving.
What Are the South Carolina Distracted Driving Statistics?
In South Carolina alone, the Department of Insurance estimates that driving distracted is 6 times more dangerous than driving drunk, with at least two distracted driving accidents per hour. And it’s not hard to understand the danger of texting while driving when you consider the fact that by the time you finish reading a single text message, your car has likely traveled the length of an entire football field or more. A lot can go wrong in that time span, and In 2014 the state of South Carolina agreed by joining the majority of the United States in outlawing texting while driving, a decision which the majority of public citizens were in favor of at the time.
However, that’s not to say that these vague bans can be extremely confusing by nature. What does a ban on texting while driving actually mean in the state of South Carolina?
Let’s go over a few common questions and concerns that will hopefully clear up any confusion surrounding this particular law.
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What does the law state in regard to texting and driving in SC?
Cutting through the legal jargon, the law states that it is illegal to compose, send, or read any form of electronic messaging (including, but no limited to an email, a text message, an instant message, a direct message, etc.) using a laptop, phone or any other wireless device.
Is it legal to text someone while stopped?
Yes. Under South Carolina state law, it is still legal to text someone while stopped. This could mean text messaging while at a stoplight, at a stop sign, or when parked.
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Is texting while driving legal if I am “texting” using a hands-free device?
Yes. Texting and driving is legal so long as it is being done through a hands-free device. By legal definition, a handsfree device is defined as:
“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.”
In a nutshell, this means you shouldn’t be using your hands to compose the actual message of the text. You can use something like Siri or Alexa to verbally compose the text. However, you should not be using your hands to hold the device while doing so. Just remember the word “hands-free.” Your hands should always be free of your device while in motion.
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So then, in what other circumstances is texting while driving legal?
As mentioned above, texting while driving is permissible by law when using a hands-free device or when the vehicle is at a stop. Other instances include:
- When summoning emergency assistance
- When transmitting/receiving data as part of a digital dispatch system
- Anyone who classifies as a public safety official who is performing a part of their essential duties
- When using a GPS device for navigational purposes
OK, so you broke the law and got caught texting and driving. What happens now?
You will be fined $25. No criminal charges will go on your record or affect your insurance rates. However, a police stop is the best outcome for the consequences of your distracted driving. Next time, the implications could be far more severe.
If the distracted driving fine is so low, why should I be worried about getting caught for it?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, you are 90% more likely to have an accident while driving distracted. In 2019 alone, 3,142 people were killed because of a distracted driver. Additionally, you can be charged with vehicular homicide should law enforcement find you were texting while driving. Not to mention the lifetime of guilt that you’ll be forced to bear from harming someone else. It’s not necessarily that you should be concerned about paying for a $25 fine, but that you should have concern for the lives of everyone sharing the road around you. Texting while driving is a considerable risk that you are taking every time you choose to look down at your phone.
Have you or a loved one been injured by a distracted driver?
If you or someone you know has been injured by the reckless actions of a distracted driver, then we know how frustrating and alone you must feel trying to figure out what to do next. The good news is that here at Hammack Law Firm, we are here to ensure you receive the full legal support that you deserve for the hardships you have endured. Our legal team is here to help you take the next step in your case—give us a call to find out how we can best serve you!