New S.C. law banning texting & driving; teen wins SCPA essay contest
By Jana E. Pye, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
As the New Year begins, warnings issued to drivers texting and driving will transition to $25 fines as law enforcement officers across South Carolina will begin to enforce the new texting and driving ban that took effect last month.
The new state law banning texting and driving in South Carolina reads, in part:
It is unlawful for a person to use a wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this State.
For purposes of the law, “text-based communication” includes text messaging, instant messaging, and e-mailing.
Although South Carolina’s law took effect on December 7, law enforcement agencies across the state were instructed to only issue warnings for the first 180 days.
Dialing and speaking on a cell phone are not banned under the new state law. Exceptions to the law include if the driver is parked, stopped at a stop sign or red light, using a device’s GPS function, using a hands-free wireless electronic communication device, texting a request for emergency assistance, using a digital dispatch system, or performing duties as a public safety official.
Under the state ban, lawbreakers will be fined up to $25 for a single infraction; violations will not be included in DMV or SLED records. A clause in the ban also prevents law enforcement agencies from reporting texting-while-driving incidents to drivers’ insurance companies. The Department of Public Safety will track statistical information on citations written.
The $25 fine is one of the lowest fines in the nation, with a median penalty of $100. Nearby states have much higher fines: North Carolina: $230, Georgia: $150, and Tennessee: $60. The highest penalty in the nation is Alaska, fining drivers $10,000 or one year in prison for a first texting offense. If a driver in Alaska causes injury to another person while texting and driving, the offense is considered a felony.
South Carolina was one of the four last states to institute a ban on texting, joining Arizona, Montana and South Dakota.
A provision of the S.C. law states that an officer cannot pull a driver over unless they have a “clear and unobstructed view” of the driver using a cell phone or mobile device. Once pulled over, the officer cannot seize, search, or view the driver’s phone to prove they were texting. An arrest for the offense occurs only for failure to appear in court or pay the fine.
Winner of the SCPA and AT & T It Can Wait essay contest:
Don’t Text and Drive! by Max Bodach
Texting while driving kills. It is dangerous, unnecessary, and illegal in South Carolina and 43 other states. 37 states ban all use of cell phones by novice or teen drivers, but despite this 34% of teen drivers admit to texting while driving. Over 54% admit to talking on the phone while behind the wheel. Distracted driving causes over 1.6 million accidents per year, and it kills eleven teenagers every single day.
These statistics are scary, aren’t they? How many people’s lives have been ruined by a thoughtless text or a pointless phone call? You yourself probably know somebody who was killed or injured because someone was texting while driving. This is an epidemic among drivers of all ages, and the most astonishing fact is that distracted driving is completely preventable!
What can we do to combat such a rampant problem in our society, especially among young drivers? The first order of business is to create a culture that discourages texting while driving. People need to hear it from everybody, especially their peers. Teenagers are much more likely to listen to somebody their own age telling them to stop texting than they are to a parent or to a teacher. Peer pressure is a powerful force, and when used for good it can change the behavior of many people. Secondly, make a conscious choice not to text and drive! Turn your phone off and place it in the glove box or in your bag. If you are a passenger while the driver of your vehicle is texting, ask them to stop! You certainly don’t want to die because of someone else’s negligence. The only way to change the culture is to first change yourself. Finally, look at what you gain when you don’t text and drive. Have a conversation with the people you’re driving with! If you’re driving alone, play your favorite music! Enjoy the drive and disconnect for a little while. You aren’t just saying “No” to texting while driving, you’re saying “Yes” to your life!
Pledges are an effective way to help people commit to a good habit. One of the most popular ones is the It Can Wait Pledge sponsored by AT&T. At the time of this writing almost 5.5 million people all over the country have taken the pledge. So what are you waiting for? Take the pledge to never text and drive at ItCanWait.com. Spread the word and share it with your friends on social media. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”