Most drivers know that texting behind the wheel increases the risk of crashing. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reading or sending a text message takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. If you’re traveling 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field while wearing a blindfold. If your eyes have seen better days like me it takes even more time and you are distracted for a longer distance.
Despite the danger of texting behind the wheel, an alarming number of motorists still choose to engage in this deadly practice. If I am completely honest I am occasionally in this group. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,477 people died in distracted-driving accidents in 2015, and about 391,000 were injured. A study cited by Insurance Journal showed that cellphone use contributed to approximately 12 percent of all fatal distracted-driving accidents between 2010 and 2011, making it the second-deadliest distraction—just behind being “lost in thought.”
In an effort to discourage drivers from texting, South Carolina legislators passed a law in 2014 that made it illegal to do so. Unfortunately, the law is relatively lenient compared to similar statutes in other states.
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Introduced as Senate Bill 459, the law prohibits drivers from using wireless electronic communication devices to compose, send, or read text-based messages; however, drivers are still allowed to use voice-based text messaging, make phone calls, and operate their GPS. Drivers are also permitted to text while stopped at a red light, and emergency texts are allowed if they are deemed to have been necessary given the situation.
Police are not allowed to view, search, seize, or require the forfeiture of a driver’s cellphone that is believed to have been involved in a violation. As such, it is often difficult to prove that a driver was texting in the first place.
Perhaps due to the leniency of South Carolina’s texting law, far too many drivers continue to text behind the wheel and to engage in other distracting behaviors. If you were hurt or lost a family member in a crash with a distracted driver, you should not have to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages out of your own pocket.
What Are the Penalties for Texting while Driving in South Carolina?
A driver’s first violation of South Carolina’s texting law is punishable with a $25 fine. The fine increases to $50 for a subsequent offense. When the law was enacted, these fines tied for the second-lowest in the nation among the 44 states that had texting bans.
Violators are not subject to points against their driver’s license, so insurance rates do not increase for infractions.
The texting law is subject to primary enforcement, which means that police can stop you for texting while driving even if you are not breaking another traffic law; however, the officer must have a clear and unobstructed view of you using a cellphone or other mobile device in order to make the stop. They would still have to prove that you were texting rather than dialing a phone number, but if you are using your phone at all it may be enough for them to stop you so the better practice is not to use your phone at all while you are moving.
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