Drinking and Driving vs. Texting and Driving

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On June 9, 2014, the governor signed into law a new statute prohibiting the unlawful use of an electronic device while driving, specifically text messaging. This new law carries fines and other penalties designed to encourage safer driving habits. Nevertheless, distracted driving accidents happen everyday in South Carolina. More importantly, statistics show alcohol is still the number one threat to drivers.

Texting and Driving

Nationally, cell phones cause nearly 1.6 million automobile accidents every single year, with over 500,000 injuries and 6,000 fatalities, according to reports from the Department of Transportation. Thus, distracted driving – especially due to text messaging – is one of the largest contributing factors leading to serious injuries on the roadway. In 2014, the South Carolina Legislature wisely opted to join the legion of other states that have instituted wide bans on handheld devices while driving. Despite widespread approval and public opinion, research shows that such bans do not significantly reduce accidents.

Are Cellphone Related Car Accidents on the Rise or Decline?

According to crash data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS),

There has been a marked decline in cellphone related injuries and accidents since 2006. This oddly conflicts with much of the public information circulating the Internet. See below for a true comparison:

                                                                               2006                                     2013

Contributing factor in accident 122 85
Accidents involving property damage 93 64
Contributing factor in injury 29 21
Number of persons injured due to cell phone use while driving 44 28
Number of people killed in DUI accidents 1 per 2.1 hours 1 per 26.2 hours

Alcohol is Still the Bigger Threat 

As the crash data clearly suggests, crashes are on the decline. Distracted driving due to handheld devices is indeed decreasing, as is the frequency of accidents associated with their use. Of course, this decline between 2006 and 2013 occurred prior to the state enacting the ban on cellphone use. On the other hand, take a look at DUI-related fatalities. On one hand, we could praise enforcement efforts that have resulted in a drastic decrease in alcohol-related fatalities of over 1,000 percent in seven years. On the other hand, keep in mind that we are still talking about one person dying on a South Carolina road nearly every single day of the year, as a result of alcohol-impaired drivers.

Has the Cellphone Ban Reduced Distracted Driving?

It depends on whom you ask, but according to research from other states that banned handheld devices long before South Carolina, it appears such bans have had little effect on distracted driving accidents. According to the Huffington Post, citing crash data from a 2011 study by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 15 states showed an increase in distracted driving accidents following bans, while 11 reported decreases and 16 showed no changes whatsoever. Likewise, as the evidence shows from South Carolina, distracted driving was on the decline long before the 2014 ban on handheld devices.

Despite improvements in South Carolina crash statistics, remember that serious fatalities still happen. Every day someone is killed on the roadways of our state, whether due to distracted driving, impaired driving, or any host of other careless and negligent actions. If you or someone you love is seriously injured in a car accident, contact the skilled lawyers of Callihan & Syracuse for a free consultation today.