COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina averaged 20.5 deaths per 100,000 people due to car crashes in 2016, ranking it as the No. 3 deadliest state in that category, according to a study examining the effects of distracted driving.
Ranked behind Mississippi (23.1) and Alabama (21.3) in deaths, SC is also criticized in the study for issuing only 53 citations for distracted driving in 2016 and only having a minimum fine of $25. States that issued many more citations with significantly higher fines were praised for doing more to curb crashes caused by distracted driving.
Comparatively, Delaware issued the most citations at 13,061 with a minimum fine of $100 plus points on a ticketed driver's license and North Carolina issued zero citations.
South Carolina has a texting ban in place, but not a wholesale ban on handheld phone use, which the study cites as making it difficult to enforce without both being implemented.
One of the most extreme examples of enforcement is that Alaska, despite issuing zero citations in 2016, has a minimum fine of $10,000 and jail time on the table.
A South Carolina bill introduced in January would classify driving while using a cell phone as "driving under the influence of an electronic device," or DUI-E. The penalties would be increased, but the bill did not make it to the Senate before the "crossover deadline" and the bill will have to wait until 2019 to be reintroduced.
The study directly states that Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina are "the top three states where you're most likely to die in a car crash," while also noting the lack of a law banning handheld phone use. To clarify, the study is using all data on car crashes, not just crashes caused by distracted driving. Despite the lack of a handheld cell phone ban, the study highlights a problem of motor vehicle safety in the Palmetto State.
Included in the study is a note that 10 percent of all fatal crashes are affected by distraction, including 14 percent involving cell phones.
A list of tips was compiled to encourage drivers to not drive distracted. The study a #justdrive campaign can help reduce the number of fatalities.
- Commit yourself that you will not drive distracted.
- Before you start your car, turn off your phone.
- Put it out of reach so you won't get tempted to use it.
- Lead by example,
- Pay attention.
- Advocate for policies against distracted driving at your work.
- Advocate for strict distracted driving laws in your city and state.
- Encourage other to #justdrive
More information can be found at the SafeWise website.