Enforcement of the E-DUI in South Carolina

Nearly all motorists have seen another distracted driver, or have been a distracted driver themselves. In this day and age, most people have cell phones or other mobile devices with them at all times in order to communicate with others.

This ever-present technology has obviously improved people’s lives in many ways. However, using a cell phone behind the wheel can also jeopardize people’s lives.

Proposed legislation in South Carolina would create a new distracted driving law that would penalize drivers found under the impairment of electronics. This proposed law would create a new DUI offense for driving under the influence of electronics.

House Bill 3246 is pushing to create and enforce a DUIE offense. If this bill becomes law, it will impact many drivers across the state. Importantly, drivers should be aware of how enforcement efforts could affect them if the legislation passes.

South Carolina’s Proposed DUIE Law

According to the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), distracted driving diverts a motorist’s attention away from the road, increasing the risk of an accident.

The most common form of distracted driving is texting, talking on, or otherwise using a cell phone behind the wheel. A recent report from SCDOT shows that using a cell phone while driving, along with other forms of distracted driving, can be deadly.

In fact, the agency reports: “research has shown that because of the degree of cognitive distraction associated with the use of hand-held devices, the behavior of drivers using them may be equivalent to the behavior of drivers with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration.” In other words, distracted drivers are just as impaired as intoxicated drivers are.

House Bill 3246 would prohibit driving while engaged in any activity that materially and appreciably impairs a driver’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle in order to prevent distracted driving accidents.

Enforcement of the DUIE

Not only would the proposed bill ban district driving, it would create a unique offense – the DUIE. Drivers convicted of a DUIE face a $500 fine for each offense.

Highway patrol and other police officers will be tasked with enforcing the law on South Carolina roads. Enforcement issues for South Carolina’s current texting while driving ban have proven to be a tough issue.

According to The Post and Courier, enforcement efforts for this current ban have been minimal, partly because officers are less likely to pull someone over for a $25 texting while driving ticket (the maximum penalty for the current law).

If the DUIE law passes, will officers enforce it more rigorously than the current texting ban? The proposed law actually addresses this in part, stating, “A law enforcement officer may not charge a driver with a violation of this section unless the driver is observed violating another motor vehicle offense due to his being distracted by activities performed in the motor vehicle.”

This means that officers cannot pull someone over simply for using their phone behind the wheel unless that activity actually causes them to violate other traffic laws.

For example, if a driver who was browsing social media begins to speed excessively due to the distraction, the police could pull them over and charge them with DUIE. It remains to be seen whether police will be able to effectively enforce a DUIE law, and how such enforcement efforts will impact South Carolina drivers.