The deadly consequences of distracted driving in South Carolina

Distracted driving has killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people in South Carolina and across the country.

In early August of this year, a head-on collision in Anderson County rocked the local community. According to WSPA, a 17-year-old high school student was driving on Welcome road when he crossed the centerline and struck a minivan. As a result of the incident, the teenager and the driver of the minivan died, and two children in the minivan were hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Greenville Memorial Hospital.

Investigators are investigating if distracted driving played a role in the accident. The behavior, which can include cellphone use and a host of other distractions, has proven time and again to be deadly.

What constitutes a distraction?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out that the following are ways a behavior can distract a driver:

  • Manual: A manual distraction is one that requires the use of the driver's hands, taking them off the steering wheel.
  • Visual: These behaviors mean that the driver's eyes are no longer on the road and are instead focused on something else.
  • Cognitive: Any task that requires a driver's mind to think about something besides driving is considered a cognitive distraction.

Eating, for example, would constitute a manual and perhaps visual distraction. Using a handheld cellphone will often comprise all three levels of distraction, making it one of the riskiest behaviors someone can engage in behind the wheel.

The devastating consequences

As Distraction.gov points out, someone who is focused on a visual and manual distraction is at three times the risk of getting into a car accident. Such a distraction includes texting while driving, which will cause a driver to take his or her eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds.

While some people may lose focus while driving without consequence, many others are not as lucky. Distraction.gov notes that distracted driving was linked to 3,154 traffic fatalities in 2013. While that is a drop in the number of deaths from 2012, there was an increase in injuries, from 421,000 in 2012 to 424,000 in 2013.

Distracted driving prevention

The GHSA encourages all drivers to turn off cellphones and put the devices out of reach to eliminate the distraction. People who need to make a call or check email should wait until they reach their destination or pull over in order to do so. Alternatively, a passenger in the vehicle could use the phone on behalf of the driver.

There are laws in place in South Carolina intended to discourage drivers from using cellphones while on the road. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that in South Carolina, no driver is permitted to text while driving. Authorities may enforce this law on a primary basis, pulling drivers over based solely on spotting the behavior.

Anyone who has been adversely affected as the result of someone else's distracted driving should consult with an attorney.