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Is texting and driving illegal in SC?

Good question. Our legal team put together this guide to help you understand what you can and can’t do when driving with a cell phone on board. Here are a few things you will learn in this article:

  • Definition of distracted driving
  • The South Carolina charge for texting and driving
  • The penalties for a conviction for texting and driving

With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reporting that distracted driving caused 3,450 deaths in 2016, it’s no wonder that so many states have made even touching your cell phone while driving illegal.

In South Carolina, many are asking…

What am I allowed to do? What am I not allowed to do? What can the cops do if they catch me texting and driving?

Knowing what police officers can and can’t do is important so you can be sure your rights aren’t violated if you get pulled over. An experienced criminal defense attorney can work with you if you’re in trouble for texting and driving.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is a broad term that describes any activity that takes your attention away from driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies three types of distracted driving:

  1. Cognitive distracted driving is when you’re thinking about something other than driving, and your mind isn’t focused on the road.
  2. Manual distracted driving is when your hands are off the wheel, like sending a text message or eating fast food.
  3. Visual distracted driving is when your eyes are not on the road, such as when composing or reading a text message.

Texting and driving is such a big deal because the act of sending and reading text messages behind the wheel combines all three types of distracted driving — cognitive, manual, and visual — in one massively distracting action. As a result, texting while driving is illegal in many states, including South Carolina.

What can’t you do in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, texting and driving is a “primary offense,” which means that a police officer can pull you over for this offense even if you aren’t doing anything else wrong.

If you do any of the following actions while operating a motor vehicle on a public road or highway, you’re at risk for a penalty from the cops, or worse, an accident.

  • Composing a text message
  • Reading a text message
  • Sending a text message

Now that you know what you can’t do, here’s what is allowed regarding cell phone use behind the wheel.

What you can do in SC

While the act of texting and driving is illegal, that doesn’t mean you can’t use your cell phone at all in your car.

The following actions are legal in South Carolina:

  • Composing and sending a text message while parked on the side of a public street
  • Reading a text message while stopped at a red light or stop sign
  • Making a voice phone call — hands-free devices are even better
  • Using your cell phone GPS app

Even though these tasks aren’t illegal, make sure you’re using your mobile device responsibly when you’re in the driver’s seat.

Penalties for texting and driving

If you’re pulled over for texting and driving, a police officer can write you a ticket. You’ll have to pay a fine at the courthouse.

The fine for your first texting and driving offense is $25. The fine for subsequent offenses is $50. However, unlike speeding tickets, texting and driving offenses aren’t reported to your insurance company and therefore don’t add points to your driver’s license.

What you need to know about the texting and driving law

To pull you over, a police officer must have a clear and unobstructed view of you using a mobile device while driving a motor vehicle on South Carolina’s public highways or streets. Furthermore, the officer is not permitted to take your phone or go through it in search of evidence that you were texting.

Texting and driving isn’t an offense for which you can be arrested, with one exception. If you don’t appear in court or pay your fine, then you could be arrested for failure to appear.

Have questions about texting and driving? Talk to a lawyer today.

Although texting and driving isn’t a serious offense, encounters with law enforcement can be stressful. If you have questions, or if you feel police officers violated your rights, talking with an attorney may shed light on your situation.

Contact the experienced team at Kent Collins Law Firm today to schedule a free in-person consultation. Call us at 803-808-0905 or click here to send us an email.

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