The Greer City Council is cracking down on texting and cell-phone use by motorists in an effort to stop distracted driving and the resulting car crashes.
Council members on April 23 approved an ordinance prohibiting drivers from texting and emailing using handheld communications devices in an effort to make local roads safer, according to news reports. The new law takes effect July 1.
Distracted driving is any activity that takes a motorist’s attention from the main task of driving. Distractions include everything from texting and talking on cell phones and smartphones to eating, drinking, grooming and using navigation systems.
Fatalities nationwide related to distracted driving totaled 3,328 in 2012, according to distraction.gov, the U.S. government website for distracted driving. In addition to the fatalities, 421,000 people sustained injuries in distraction-related wrecks in 2012, up 9 percent from 387,000 the previous year, distraction.gov reports.
South Carolina has no statewide limits on cell-phone use or texting while driving, prompting several cities and counties to take action on their own, including Charleston, Columbia, Clemson, Hilton Head Island and Greenville.
The Legislature also is debating the passage of some type of distracted driving law.
The South Carolina House of Representatives this month passed a prohibition on texting while driving after the state Senate approved a measure that bans novice drivers from using wireless communications devices, according to handsfreeinfo.com. The House might expand that Senate bill to make it apply to all drivers.
House legislation would prohibit all motorists from sending or receiving text messaging or face fines of $25, with no court costs. Voice-activated and hands-free texting would be allowed.
The Senate voted to outlaw wireless communications devices by novice drivers and those with restricted licenses. The bill also would prohibit text messaging and cell-phone use when caution lights are activated in school zones. Fines would progress from $100 to $300.
New laws have mixed impact
In Greenville, the city put up 30 signs warning motorists of its new law against texting while driving, which took effect April 1, according to a Greenville News report. The city of Greenville went further than most in its ban, giving judges authority to have cell phones seized and destroyed.
Another factor that could affect the success of texting bans is that most don’t prohibit hands-free texting or emailing, even though the National Safety Council considers those dangerous distractions as well.
The ban on texting passed by the Greer City Council bars drivers from using hand-held cell phones to compose, send or read text messages or email while a car is in motion. The law permits the use voice-activated technology as long as the driver is not holding the device.
Even with the new laws, distracted driving is likely to continue to be an issue with the prevalence of cell phones and mobile communications devices.
If you or a loved one are hurt in a car crash caused by a distracted driver in South Carolina, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you steer through the legal system and obtain the compensation you deserve for injuries, property damage and lost work time.