South Carolina Working to Ban Texting While Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 20 percent of motor vehicle crash-related injuries in 2009 were linked to distracted driving. This public safety pandemic cost over 5,000 Americans their lives in 2009 and caused an additional 448,000 injuries. One of the biggest culprits of distracted driving is text messaging. As a result, many states have enacted bans on the practice. In South Carolina, legislators pushed this last legislative session for tougher penalties for those who text while driving.

In January 2011, state Senator Jake Knotts introduced a bill geared at reducing distracted driving. Senate Bill 0225 called for specific penalties (a $45 fine) and one point assessment against driving records for those drivers found operating their motor vehicles while using a wireless electronic communication device. Knotts, a former law enforcement officer, is passionate about this issue. Knotts is not alone in his efforts to have South Carolina join the over thirty states that have already banned texting while driving. Proposed legislation was also sponsored by Senator Larry Martin, and House of Representative members Bakari Sellers and Joseph McEachern sponsored similar bills: House Bill 3115 and House Bill 3160. While many may support these bills, no bill passed this legislative session.

In 2010, state lawmakers attempted to pass cell phone and texting bans, but those measures also failed. Some critics believe that the law would be difficult to enforce. While South Carolina citizens wait, local jurisdictions are taking action against the dangerous practice. In Knotts’ home jurisdiction of Lexington and the state capitol of Columbia, local governments have passed ordinances banning texting while driving.

It is true that distracted driving is not just about phones, but America’s growing addiction to cell phone technology poses an increasing threat to roadway safety. Currently, South Carolina has no existing ban on cell phone use or texting for drivers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 34 states and the District of Columbia have laws banning texting for those operating motor vehicles. Others have even attempted to extend the ban to pedestrians and cyclists.

More than 1,000 people are injured and over 15 are killed each day in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. For South Carolina, accident deaths cost the state over $1 billion in medical costs and lost work. Anyone injured due to the fault of a distracted driver should protect their legal rights. Seeking advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer is a first step.