You have seen it, and chances are you have probably done it: using a cellular device while driving. As our society becomes more and more communication-centric, and with the proliferation of cheap cellular data plans, we have gone from first seeing drivers become distracted by talking on their phones to the more recent (and even more dangerous) issue of drivers texting or using data services while trying to operate a motor vehicle. And it should be no surprise to anybody that with the increase in the prevalence of cell phone usage, the number of car accidents that have been linked to distracted driving has skyrocketed.
Studies by various groups, the National Highway & Transportation Administration (NHTSA) among them, have shown what many people have been suspecting for years now: there are close similarities between the loss of control shown by people using cell phones while driving and drunk drivers. In fact, in government studies drivers who were texting and driving showed the same rates of impairment (weaving into oncoming traffic, delayed braking, following too closely, etc.) as drivers who had consumed four beers before getting behind the wheel.
And, while the number of drunk driving fatalities has dropped by about 25 percent in recent years, the numbers of accidents caused by distracted driving has increased by 22 percent for the same time period. According to the NHTSA, the leading cause of distracted driving, texting while driving, results in around 1.6 million traffic accidents each year: 25 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in the United States were caused by someone texting while driving.
Jurisdictions nationwide are moving rapidly to pass laws regulating the use of handheld devices by people operating motor vehicles. Currently, 41 states have laws on the books making it illegal for drivers to text, and 11 states prohibit the use of handheld cellular devices entirely. This number is growing quickly.
In South Carolina it is currently legal, as of November 2015, to use a handheld or hands-free cell phone for voice communication while driving. However, it is illegal for a driver to text while driving. This includes any “text based communication,” including instant messaging and e-mail, and is what is referred to as a primary offense, which means that a law enforcement officer is authorized to pull a driver over and cite them for only that offense—no underlying moving violation is required for there to be a traffic stop.
Interestingly, a recent case in New Jersey is setting an additional precedent which may be adopted elsewhere. In Kubert v. Best, an appellate court noted that while a person receiving a text message who causes a wreck can be found liable for damages, the text sender may also hold liability if they knew the recipient was driving and would read the text immediately. Since New Jersey is on the cutting edge of these issues, and watched carefully by other jurisdictions, such legislation could be in our future nationwide.
Contact an Experienced Greenville Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver in or around Greenville, South Carolina do not fight the insurance defense lawyer alone. Get an experienced car accident attorney on your side. The Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm is here to help. Contact his office today to set up a no-cost consultation.