In South Carolina, there is no statewide ban on using a cell phone while driving. Each municipality within the state has the authority to enact their own ban. Counties and cities like Beaufort, Hilton Head Island, Camden, Walhalla, Columbia, Clemson, Mount Pleasant, Sumter, and West Union have enacted their own bans on cell phone use and driving. In the case of Beaufort County, drivers under 18 years old are banned from all cell phone use, including hands-free. This is in addition to a texting ban which applies to drivers of all ages. First time offenders face a $100 fine, while third time offenders may receive a $300 fine. But, what about a driver who causes an accident while using their cell phone or sending that seemingly all-important text message while behind the wheel?
Text Messaging Behind the Wheel
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that the average text distracts you for at least five seconds, which means you could drive the length of a football field at 55 mph without ever looking at the road or hazards around you. That is certainly long enough to cause a serious accident resulting in injuries or death.
For defendants who attempt to lie about their cell phone use, their wireless carrier can provide a timestamp of what was happening at the exact moment the accident occurred. Time-stamped data remains on the phone and can be subpoenaed from a cell phone carrier as well.
Distracted Driving Statistics in South Carolina
Insurance rates in South Carolina are on the rise, and distracted driving is part of the reason why. Stats from the NHTSA indicate that in 2016, South Carolina ranked first in fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven with 1,015 traffic collision related deaths. The state also ranked 7th for percentage of fatalities related to speed. As a whole, South Carolina is home to the third-worst drivers in the United States.
While fatalities related to distracted driving are on the decline, injuries are on the rise. It’s imperative that drivers practice more defensive driving skills, and those who are tempted to use their cell phones while on the road must wait until they pull over and can safely send a text while parked.
The current texting and driving law is not really being enforced, and with only a $25 fine, it’s not deterring drivers from texting. And, since the ban only applies to texting, if someone is pulled over they can claim they were using the phone for something else and avoid a potential fine.
Retaining a South Carolina Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured in an accident by someone who was distracted by their cell phone at the time of the crash, you need a skilled South Carolina car accident attorney who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. The attorneys at Elrod Pope Law Firm have years of experience helping victims injured in vehicle accidents throughout South Carolina. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation and let us help you maximize your potential recovery, while sending a message that texting and driving has serious repercussions.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.