While there is no one cause for fatal auto crashes, there are factors that greatly contribute to the carnage each week on South Carolina roads.
Law enforcement and highway safety advocates regularly point to impaired driving and speeding as reasons so many people are killed. Increasingly, distracted driving has become a culprit -- so much so that April has been designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
AAA Carolinas is using the month to push for passage of legislation in North Carolina that would make it illegal to use a hand-held communications device, including a cellphone, while driving.
Tiffany Wright, president of AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety, said, “April is dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and this is the perfect time for lawmakers to act and move this bill forward.This is a non-partisan issue and is ultimately about saving lives.”
The current texting-while-driving law in North Carolina, according to AAA, is difficult to enforce. The Hands Free NC bill would give law enforcement the ability to stop drivers for holding a phone, whereas in the past they would have to have a secondary reason like speeding or not wearing a seat belt. The bill carries a $100 fine for the first offense and a larger fine and insurance points for the second and third offenses.
Similar legislation is being proposed in South Carolina. Georgia already has such a law. And while there are sound reasons to support such bills, there are issues with the ability of some motorists to comply based on the age of their vehicles and access to technology.
While a change in law is being debated, there is no debate about measures that drivers can take to ensure their safety and the safety of others:
Here are recommendations from AAA:
• Disconnect and drive: Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into some vehicles, while driving.
• Know where you’re going: If GPS is available to you, preprogram it and adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before putting the car in motion.
• Secure items: Properly secure children and pets and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.
• Snack smart: Avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.
As of April 14, 242 people have been killed on South Carolina roads so far in 2019, continuing the horrific toll of more than two people a day. Locally in Orangeburg County, the toll is running ahead of last year's deadly pace.
The road is dangerous enough without allowing yourself to be distracted while behind the wheel. During this month and all the time, be aware that crashes happen frequently. Take steps to be sure you and those you love are as safe as possible.