While South Carolina law does not currently ban most forms of cell phone use, some state legislators are pushing to change that. In fact, the proposed legislation would prohibit all forms of distracted driving, including using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.
This proposed law would create a driving under the influence-like charge to penalize drivers who are impaired by the use of electronics.
To learn about South Carolina’s current distracted driving laws and the types of E-DUI offenses in South Carolina the proposed law could create, read below and contact an experienced attorney for more information.
Texting While Driving
South Carolina Code Section 56-5-3890 currently bans texting while driving in most situations. Drivers found in violation of the law face a $25 citation for each alleged offense. This law does allow for numerous exceptions, such as when a driver 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
- Using a global positioning system (GPS) device or an internal GPS feature or function of a wireless electronic communication device for navigation or for obtaining related traffic and road condition information
Proposed Legislation and E-DUI Offenses
Many states, including South Carolina, are considering passing distracted driving laws that more closely resemble DUI laws than other traffic violations. Commonly referred to E-DUI laws, these laws would ban all forms of cell phone use while driving. The E-DUI laws focus on the potential risks that distracted drivers pose to others on the road.
Lawmakers posit that distracted driving is a form of impairment, similar to intoxicated or drugged driving. Since distracted drivers pose similar risks to others as impaired drivers do, some South Carolina legislators feel they should face harsher punishments than a small fine.
Under the proposed South Carolina House Bill 3246, a driver would be prohibited from engaging in the following activities:
- Talking on a cell phone
- Texting or emailing on a mobile device in any circumstance (closing the exceptions of current state law)
- Browsing the internet on a mobile device
- Playing games on a mobile device
- Accessing social media or other applications on a mobile device
Some states, like California, go even further and ban drivers from touching a cell phone altogether while behind the wheel. Since South Carolina’s lawmakers are still debating a potential E-DUI law, it is unclear exactly what specific offenses or penalties violating drivers could face if the law passes.
However, there are related charges under current state law that distracted drivers could face in some situations, including reckless driving.
Reckless Driving and Distracted Drivers
While South Carolina’s reckless driving law does not specifically prohibit distracted driving, more and more distracted drivers find themselves facing such a charge. Any driver who operates a motor vehicle with a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” is guilty of reckless driving under South Carolina Code Section 56-5-2920.
Police may view a driver who is distracted by the use of an electronic device behind the wheel as someone who has a “willful or wanton disregard,” and may charge that driver with reckless driving.
Reckless drivers do not merely receive a traffic citation the way a driver who was texting might get. Reckless driving a criminal misdemeanor, and convicted drivers face hundreds in fines and up to 30 days in jail. If the proposed House Bill 3246 becomes law, South Carolina motorists may face similar, serious criminal E-DUI offenses in the near future.