Last year, Georgia became the sixteenth state to pass a hands-free driving law, meaning that driver cannot be holding a cell-phone or another electronic device while operating a vehicle. South Carolina is in the process of following suit with a distracted driving bill of its own – House Bill 3355, also known as Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device, or DUI-E.
The distracted driving bill is sponsored by State Representative Bill Taylor. It recently passed a sub-committee of the State House and will move on to the full House Education and Public Works Committee. If the bill passes this committee, it will go to the House. If it passes the house, it will go to the State Senate. Although the bill has a way to go, the bill was introduced with the intent of cutting down on distracted driving in the state.
What will South Carolina’s distracted driving bill (DUI-E) do?
The proposed bill will ban drivers from using electronic devices – even if they’re stopped at a traffic light. Drivers can still use devices if it’s through a Bluetooth or hands-free device and not being held or supported by the shoulder or any other part of the body. Essentially, drivers have to use a hands-free device or one that doesn’t require more than one touch to activate.
The bill comes with a $200 fine per offense. So far it’s only a civil offense with no points being added to a driver’s license. (Although that could be altered.)
House Bill 3355 is similar to Georgia’s “Hands-Free” Driving Law, which took effect in July of 2018. In fact, Taylor explained that they referenced Georgia’s law as they revised the South Carolina bill for this year. (It was originally introduced last year, but there wasn’t enough time to get it passed.)
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The reasoning behind DUI-E.
The goal is to create a law that’s easier to enforce than the current ban on texting and driving in South Carolina. As it stands, texting and driving in South Carolina is a secondary offense, meaning that an officer has to stop a driver for something other than texting. Then drivers can easily dispute the accusation of texting and driving by claiming they were dialing a phone call or using GPS. Since the new would prohibit the use of a handheld phone, in theory, it would be much easier for officers to pull people over for distracted driving.
Of course, the distracted driving bill is intended to save lives. According to an article from The State, the S.C. Dept. of Public Safety estimates that 62 of the 1,015 traffic fatalities in 2018 in the state was due to distracted driving. With the distracted driving bill, the hope is to lower the number of roadway fatalities in the state.
Taylor also explained that the bill is intended to help South Carolina car insurance rates. According to South Carolina Insurance Commissioner Ray Farmer, distracted driving contributes to an average of a 10% increase in car insurance premiums. If distracted driving within the state is reduced, then there will be fewer accidents. And fewer accidents means less risk…which could lead to a decrease in car insurance rates. (Rep. Carson of Georgia, who sponsored the Georgia Hands-Free law, also cited insurance premiums as a reason for introducing his state’s bill.)
Other states that have passed distracted driving laws.
Results from other states that have passed laws banning handheld cell-phones have been encouraging. Of the other states that have passed distracted driving laws, 13 report at least a 16% decrease in traffic fatalities following the implementation of the new law. By passing a distracted driving bill, South Carolina could see similar decreases in traffic fatalities.
Distracted driving – the dangers.
To see why distracted driving is something that’s attracted the attention of lawmakers, one needs to look no further than the dangers it presents.
If a driver looking at a cell phone while operating their car, their reaction time is significantly impaired. It’s harder to respond quickly to potential dangers on the road because their attention is divided.
To illustrate in another way, imagine that a car is driving down the road at 50 mph. It takes about 5 seconds to read or send a text message, meaning that if the driver is texting and driving, they’re essentially driving without looking at the road for 5 seconds. And in that 5 seconds, that car will travel 366 feet. That’s more than the length of a football field.
In other words, multi-tasking while driving is dangerous.
It will be interesting to monitor the progress of South Carolina’s distracted driving bill through the state’s legislature and to take a look at the effect of the law if it indeed passes. And going forward, perhaps more states will enact legislation banning handheld electronic devices to address what has become a nation-wide and very tragic issue.
We mentioned above that distracted driving can affect car insurance rates. To get competitive quotes for car insurance in South Carolina, fill out our online quote form or give us a call. We’re here to help.