The South Carolina Department of Public Safety will be conducting a special enforcement effort to curb distracted driving this week as traffic volume increases for Thanksgiving travel. Community Relations Officers will also be distributing safety materials and talking with motorists about safe holiday travel at rest areas and welcome centers around the state on Wednesday.
“Distracted driving is one of the most significant problems we see on our highways now,” said SCDPS Director Leroy Smith. “As technology in the vehicle grows, so does the temptation to look away for just a few seconds, which can – and does – have deadly consequences.”
According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving multiplies the chances of an individual being involved in a collision by 23 times.
From November 20-26, 2017, the SCHP, joined by the State Transport Police (STP), will conduct a “STOP Texting and Driving” enforcement initiative, which is a continuation of the Operation STOP effort that troopers have used this year to curb aggressive driving. SCHP chose Thanksgiving week for the texting and driving enforcement because of the increase in traffic volume and the chance for distractions during long trips.
In 2016, there were 16 highway deaths during the Thanksgiving travel period. This year’s 102-hour travel period will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 22, and continue through Sunday, November 26, at midnight.
So far this year, total statewide fatalities are running behind 2016 with 850 highway fatalities year-to-date compared to 908 fatalities at this time last year.
The enforcement will take place on interstates and main highways in the SCHP Troops 1, 3, 5, and 6. However, normal enforcement of texting and driving laws will be conducted by SCDPS enforcement officers in all areas of the state. Last year, SCHP issued 1,034 citations for texting and driving.
“While driving long distances, it’s easy for drivers to become bored and reach for their phones,” said SCHP Col. Chris Williamson. “Unfortunately, our troopers see the tragic results of these mistakes too often. What many people do not realize is sending one text at 55 miles per hour is equivalent to driving blind the length of a football field.”
Each Troop identified (1, 3, 5, and 6) will use unmarked patrol vehicles for the initiative and each vehicle will be staffed by two troopers -- a driver and a primary spotter on the passenger side. The driver will patrol multi-lane highways, making it conducive to pull alongside vehicles to observe the actions of drivers. The primary spotter’s duty will be to detect drivers violating the Texting and Driving Law.
In addition to distracted driving, Troopers report that some of the primary violations they see during this time of year are failure to buckle up, speeding and impaired driving. SCHP encourages motorists to ensure their vehicle is in good working condition and to rest up before a long trip and take frequent breaks.
Motorists are asked to report suspected impaired drivers to local law enforcement or call *HP (*47). SCDPS also urges motorists to move over for emergency vehicles and first responders to give them space to work safely.
Real-time traffic from the Highway Patrol can be monitored at: www.scdps.gov/schp/webcad.asp.
On June 9, 2014, the South Carolina Legislature enacted a law that makes it unlawful to text and drive:
SECTION 56-5-3890 In part:
(B) It is unlawful for a person to use a wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this State.
(C) This section does not apply to a person who is:
(1) lawfully parked or stopped;
(2) using a hands-free wireless electronic communication device;
(3) summoning emergency assistance;
(4) transmitting or receiving data as part of a digital dispatch system;
(5) a public safety official while in the performance of the person's official duties; or
(6) using a global positioning system device or an internal global positioning system feature or function of a wireless electronic communication device for the purpose of navigation or obtaining related traffic and road condition information.