Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents on our nation’s highways and roads. In this modern age of hand-held device technology, the cellular phone has become a common object of such distraction. Now that texting has in recent years become an increasingly popular method of communication, distracted driving is more prevalent than ever. Although accurate data is hard to obtain on cell phone-related accidents, due to inaccurate and/or inconsistent reporting, the NationalSafetyCouncil estimates that 26% of all crashes involve cell phone use.
Inaccurate and inconsistent data aside, the public and our lawmakers are aware that cell phones are distracting, and that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous. In September of 2013, the Town of Mount Pleasant passed a texting and cell phone use ban that would impose a $50 fine on first-time offenders, and a $200 fine on drivers who were involved in an accident at the time they were using their cell phone. The City of Charleston quickly followed suit, passing a similar ban and $100 fine per violation in October 2013. Up until now attempts to pass a statewide ban on texting and cell phone use while driving have failed, and so local jurisdictions have taken it upon themselves to act.
Governor Haley Approves a Long-Awaited Statewide Ban
But that all changed on Monday, June 9, 2014, when South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed into law a state wide ban on texting while driving. The statewide ban preempts local bans such as those in Charleston and Mount Pleasant, so all South Carolina drivers need to be aware of the statewide rules that take effect immediately.
The new ban reads: “It is unlawful for a person to use a wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication [includes text messages, i-messaging, and e-mailing] while operating a motor vehicle on public streets and highways of [South Carolina].”
The South Carolina statewide ban is an effective way to send a unified message to drivers that distracted driving is dangerous and will not be tolerated in our State. However the statewide ban in other ways appears to be somewhat lenient, in spite of the dangerous behavior it seeks to combat, as it provides that:
- A single infraction carries a $25 fine – a drastic reduction from the fines that were imposed locally, and now ranking as one of the smallest fines of its kind in the United States;
- Texting ban violations will not appear on a driver’s DMV record; and
- The ban actually prevents law enforcement agencies from reporting driver infractions to insurance companies.
Distracted driving endangers lives. Because there is no national ban on texting or cell phone use while driving, it is important that states take action to prohibit and enforce against this dangerous distraction. It is absolutely commendable (and about time) that South Carolina joins the vast majority of states that have banned texting and cell phone use in one way or another. However, only time will tell whether what appears to be a “slap on the wrist” in fines and consequences will truly further the goal of reducing distracted driving.
Contact Us If Distracted Driving Caused Your Car Accident
Distracted driving due to texting or cell phone use increases the likelihood of an accident. If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident that you suspect was caused by a distracted driver, allow our car accident attorneys to investigate. Contact our Mount Pleasant personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation.