Texting & Driving Laws in South Carolina

As criminal lawyers in Charleston, South Carolina, we deal with both criminal defense and auto accident cases that involve texting while driving. Texting while driving is very dangerous because text messaging takes the driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention away from the task of operating their vehicles.

What are the Texting and Driving Laws in South Carolina?

It is illegal to (1) compose, (2) send, or (3) read a text-based communication in South Carolina. A text-based communication can be a text message, an SMS message, an instant message, or email. It doesn’t just have to be a phone either for the text or email to be illegal. If you are using a laptop, PDA, or another type of wireless electronic device, you are likely breaking the law.

Some Frightening Facts & Statistics About Texting & Driving

  • Over 2.5 million people in the U.S. are involved in road accidents each year.
  • Of these accidents, 1.6 million (64%) have a cell phone involved in them.
  • Every year, about 421,000 people are injured in crashes that have involved a driver who was distracted in some way.
  • Each year, over 330,000 accidents (78% caused by texting while driving lead to severe injuries.
  • 1 out of 4 car accidents in the US is caused by texting while driving.
  • At any given moment in America, over 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.
  • Texting and driving is 6 times more likely to get you in an accident than drunk driving.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 5 seconds, the equivalent at 55 mph of the driving length of an entire football field, blind.
  • When you text while driving, the time that you spend with your eyes off the road increases by about 400%.
  • The chances of a crash because of any reason are increased by 23 times when you are texting.
  • Every day, 11 teenagers die because they were texting while driving.
  • 94% of teenagers understand the consequences of texting and driving, but 35% of them admitted that they do it anyway.
  • 21% of teenagers involved in a fatal accident were using a cell phone at the time of the accident.
  • 25% of teens respond to at least one text while driving, every single time.
  • When teens text while they drive, they veer off lane 10% of their total drive time.

What Happens if I’m Caught Texting and Driving in South Carolina?

A person convicted of violating South Carolina’s laws will be fined $25, but it’s not considered a criminal offense. Further, the DMV will not include the violation on your driving record, and the violation can’t be reported to your insurer. However, by violating this law, you may have given the police reason to stop your vehicle, which could lead to other consequences if you are driving suspended, are driving intoxicated, have illegal contraband in the car, have an outstanding warrant, or possibly other consequences depending on your situation.

However, there could be other serious consequences from texting and driving. Obviously, you could cause a wreck that hurts or kills you or another person. If it is discovered that you were texting at the time of such an accident, law enforcement could try to charge you with vehicular homicide or some other serious crime. Please don’t put yourself at this risk. Either wait until you are stopped, or use a hands-free device.

Are Hands-Free Devices Also Illegal in South Carolina?

No, but you have to be sure your device meets the definition under our law to be a “hands-free electronic device, which is: “an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, a personal digital assistant, a text-messaging device, or a computer, which allows a person to wirelessly communicate with another person without holding the device in either hand by utilizing an internal feature or function of the device, an attachment, or an additional device. A hands-free wireless electronic communication device may require the use of either hand to activate or deactivate an internal feature or function of the device.”

Can I Use My Phone’s GPS While Driving in South Carolina?

Yes. You may use a GPS or internal GPS feature on a phone for the purpose of navigation or obtaining traffic or road condition information.

Can I Text If I’m Stopped at a Stoplight?

The law states that it is not illegal to text if you are “lawfully parked or stopped.”

Can Law Enforcement Take My Phone or Device?

No. If you are pulled over for texting and driving, the police may not confiscate your cell phone.

Are There Any Laws Against Texting Someone Who I Know is Driving Even If I’m Not?

The answer in South Carolina is “maybe.” An appeals court in New Jersey became the first court in the U.S. to rule that third-party texters could be responsible for texting-related automobile accidents. In that case, a 17-year-old girl sent a text message to an 18-year-old boy before his pickup truck veered out of its lane and hit a married couple who were on a motorcycle. The husband and wife each lost a leg as a result of the accident. The appeals court ruled that third-party texters, such as the 17-year-old girl, could be held liable if they knew that the person they were texting is behind the wheel. The appeals court wrote that “when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.”

Whether South Carolina’s courts also hold third-party texters responsible remains to be seen in future cases. Because South Carolina has implemented a law against texting while driving, then South Carolina may follow the same trend.

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