Most people realize that texting while driving is dangerous and can lead to car wrecks that would not happen if drivers kept their eyes on the road. Many drivers, however, do not realize that it is against the law to even check your messages while driving or that doing so can expose a violator to criminal fines and additional civil liability when involved in a wreck.
South Carolina Code Section 56-5-3890 outlaws using any electronic device to “compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this State.” This covers mobile phones, tablets, and laptop computers, and encompasses text messages and e-mail. The law expressly permits the otherwise banned practice if lawfully parked or stopped, if using a hands-free system or if summoning emergency assistance. Otherwise, if you are driving it is illegal to write, send, or read a text message or e-mail.
The fine for violating this law is $25.00 dollars. Keep in mind, however, that violation of the law could ultimately cost the offender thousands more by providing support for much more serious charges against an at-fault driver involved in a collision that causes serious injuries. A conviction for violation of the statute alone can be the basis for a civil claim for punitive damages, which can expose an at-fault driver to liability for a verdict far in excess of the actual damages suffered by an injured party.
American businessman Jim Rohn is quoted as saying “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” So please, avoid the urge to check that one message or send that quick reply; it really can wait. Set your phone to do not disturb and remove that distraction. It is not worth the risk to yourself or the other drivers on the road.
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Blog post by attorney Wes Kissinger. Click here to learn more about Wes.