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Texting and Driving Laws in South Carolina


In November 2013, flanked by representatives of AT&T and other sponsors, Gov. Nikki Haley announced the state’s “Texting Can Wait” challenge, an attempt to discourage younger drivers from texting while driving. In November 2014, AT&T issued the results of a survey which showed that the effort perhaps has to fight an uphill battle.

AT&T and Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at The University of Connecticut School of Medicine, commissioned the study on texting and driving. The results, from the standpoint of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign to curb texting and driving, were discouraging.

The results showed that 3 out of 4 people “admitted to at least glancing at their phones while behind the wheel.” Moreover, while about 9 out of 10 people said they knew texting while driving is dangerous, nearly 3 in 10 said they have no trouble doing several things at once while driving.

Greenfield said that “many objective studies show that’s not possible,” labeling the texting and driving proclivity as “a classic sign of addiction.” Greenfield went on to assert that texting and driving can become compulsive.

“We compulsively check our phones because every time we get an update through text, email or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine, which is a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy,” Greenfield said. “If that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we’re driving, a simple text can turn deadly.”

The study also pointed out that those who are “most likely” to text and drive are inclined to discontinue the practice, and “82 percent of people who take action to stop texting and driving feel good about themselves.”

When the governor announced the state’s “Texting Can Wait” campaign, she was backed not only by AT&T staffers but also by Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer, Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, University of South Carolina President Dr. Harris Pastides, Clemson University President Dr. James Barker, along with representatives from the National Safety Council, State Farm Insurance Companies, Bojangles Restaurants, and The South Carolina Insurance News Service.

The announcement particularly challenged students of South Carolina and Clemson Universities to promise not to text while driving and to collect student pledges to do the same. A discouraging backdrop to “Texting Can Wait” is that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among those ages 15 to 24 in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“This texting challenge comes with an important message to our young drivers – driving is a privilege and with it comes responsibility,” Haley said last year. “There are far too many fatal car crashes in this country and this state and we are learning that many of these crashes are the result of distracted driving. That is why we are challenging our young people, our future, to take the pledge and wait to text.”

The New Law

The year-old pledge is not the only development designed to free South Carolina roads from distracted drivers. The Governor, on June 9, signed legislation that makes it, “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,” as the law,S. 459, reads.

The restriction does not apply to a motorist who is:

  • Lawfully parked or stopped;

  • Using a hands-free wireless electronic communication device;

  • Summoning emergency assistance;

  • Transmitting or receiving data as part of a digital dispatch system;

  • A public safety official while in the performance of the person’s official duties; or

  • Using a global positioning system device or an internal global positioning system feature or function of a wireless electronic communication device for the purpose of navigation or obtaining related traffic and road condition information

When Accidents Happen

Most states have texting and driving restrictions; nevertheless, as the AT&T survey shows, people still text while they drive. And accidents happen.

The victim of a crash that a texting-and-driving motorist causes may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses. This is where an attorney, such as one of the experienced Charleston car and truck accident attorneys atPierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC, can be a valuable asset.

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