South Carolina DUI-E Legislation

Board member Lance Collins was recently interviewed by Fox Carolina to discuss the new distracted driving bill sponsored by Representative Bill Taylor. The bill prohibits the use of any electronic device while driving, no matter if the operator is texting, calling, or even just touching the device. Motorists who drive under the influence of an electronic device will face a $100 fine for their first offense, and $300 per subsequent offense. Read Fox’s coverage of the story here.

Please do your part to support this bill and help make our roads safer.

Proposal to Have Driver Education and Driver Training Under One Agency

A critical need in our state’s driver education and driver training programs today is a strengthening of the teacher selection, preparation, certification process, performance of the teacher, and structured learning experiences. The best way to search for ways to improve the instructional program is to have everything under one agency.

During the Southeast Region ADTSEA Conference, it was learned that all of the above is under one agency in Georgia and that the standards for teacher preparation and teaching courses are also same for high school and commercial school. In South Carolina the above is done by both the Department of Education and the Department of Motor Vehicles. The standards and regulations are also different in South Carolina.

A person can prepare to become a teacher in commercial school by taking 40 hours of instruction by a teacher without a college degree; to prepare to teach in high school a person needs a degree and 12 hours credit in driver and traffic safety education. A person can teach the full eight hours of commercial classroom driver education in a one day setting; to teach the full 30 hours of high school classroom driver education, it would have to be in a day’s hour or hour and half classroom sitting until the 30 hours are done. High school and commercial school both have to teach six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, but there is no curriculum guide or mandate of what is to be taught. The Department of Education recently allowed driver education to be dropped if local school officials wanted it to be so (used to have a mandate that driver education had to be offered in each high school). All driving educators in high school or commercial school is certified by the SC Department of Motor Vehicles.

Perhaps a committee ought to be set up to study this further. It would be good to have a safety colleague or two from SCDTSEA to also be on such a committee. Maybe even take a survey of what other states are doing and what is working the best.

The desire is to see attempts for better quality teacher preparation and teaching measures for everyone involved in teacher driver and traffic safety education. More resources are needed to provide better standardization and supervision. One agency to be responsible for this tremendous task seems to be part of the answer.

Thank you for your consideration to improve the above situations. Please let us know of any attempts to this endeavor.

Joe Sabbadino

Addendum to SC Needs a Tough Texting Law

The desire is to share additional information to ban texting while driving. We shared earlier that Georgia’s texting law includes a $150 fine and 1 driving record point penalty. We feel more information about the Georgia’s law can be helpful.

According to national studies, approximately 22 percent of all crashes and 16 percent of all fatal crashes were caused by some form of distraction occurring within three seconds of the crash. A Georgia survey was given to drivers. Thirty-seven percent of drivers admitted to texting while driving.

Georgia also knew that studies compare the distraction caused by cell phones use to the slower reaction times of an impaired driver, and that the number one responsibility behind the wheel is paying attention to the roadway.

Effective July 1, 2010, Georgia law states that no person who is 18 years of age or who has a license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunications device. Under this law drivers cannot write, send, or read a text message, email, or use the internet on any wireless device while driving. This includes texting at red lights or turn lanes. The rare exceptions are reserved for reporting crimes, accidents and emergencies. Prohibited behavior and texting during a crash would double the fine.

May this additional information be helpful to you. You can also go to www.gahighwaysafety.org.

Joe Sabbadino

Consider Texting Information To Pass Texting Bill

With distracted driving now playing a part in 80 percent of all car crashes, according to a recent Virginia Tech study, and responsible for some 5,500 automotive fatalities annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the problem of mobile phone use for texting and talking behind the wheel has become and epidemic.

Distracted driving comes in various forms, such as cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers, as well as using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices. Any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increases the risk of crashing is a distraction. There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual – taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive – taking your mind off what you are doing.

While all distractions can endanger drivers’ safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for up to 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field!

A new On Your Side survey by Nationwide showed that eight in 10 drivers support some type of cell phone usage restriction. More findings to consider follows: Distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) extends a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent (University of Utah). The No. 1 source of driver inattention is use of a wireless device (Virginia TEch/NHTSA). Drivers that use cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves (NHTSA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent (Carnegie Mellon).

May some of the information within help you to approve the House’s texting bill that you are considering. A good law with tough enforcement can help to reduce deadly distracted driving behavior. It has been said that personal liberty ends where public safety begins.

Joe Sabbadino

Letter from the President

Dear Driver’s Training Colleague,

I would like to invite you to look over our website and also to encourage you to join our association. I remember going to the conference in the 90’s and thinking about my role in making the roads safer for all of us, and I realized that I could help by becoming a small part in this wonderful association. I will tell you that we are a small association and we need to increase our numbers not to just say we have a lot of members, but to be able to share more ideas between the members of the association so that we can have a better impact on improving safety on our roadways.

If you have any ideas please contact me at davidsmith@newberry.k12.sc.us or 803-364-2134.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

David E Smith
President, SCDTSEA

South Carolina Graduated Licensing (GDL)

We propose that the GDL law be expanded to require all teenagers (17-19) to successfully complete a certified Traffic Safety Education course before being eligible to apply for a SC driver license, since there seems to be major oppositions in changing the law to require Driver Education for teenagers 17 years of age.

Any certified Traffic Safety Education now has it those teenagers before 17 can get a restricted license. They do this by taking Driver Ed. or driver training. There is no assurance that 17-19 year-olds take a safety course before being licensed.

Any safety education before getting a driver’s license is better than none! Such education could involve controlling the speed and direction of the motor vehicle according to the requirements of the roadway; interacting safely and efficiently with other highway users in routine and difficult highway traffic conditions; controlling the vehicle properly in critical emergency situations caused by driver error, loss of traction, or vehicle failure; coping with highway crashes if directly involved or one of the first to come upon the scene; considering the requirements of physical, mental, and emotional fitness for operating a motor vehicle and refraining from driving when operator fitness is inadequate for safe driving; etc.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spoke that such safety education “seeks to develop safe and efficient drivers who understand the essential facets of evolving traffic safety programs and who participate in the traffic environment in a manner that enhances the effectiveness of such programs.” Driving constitutes the greatest hazard to survival through which American youth must pass successfully to reach adulthood.

Consider since we invaded Iraq in 2003, we lost more than 4,300 soldiers, and this is totally unacceptable. Yet during that same period more than 40,000 teens age 15-19 have been killed in motor vehicle crashes. This is not simply statistics, but represents our nation’s DEAD KIDS. We say that 4,300 dead soldiers are not acceptable, but are we saying 40,000 dead teens are okay? If not, please do what you can to promote driver and traffic safety education for all of our South Carolina teenagers!

Throughout the nation crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers. In fact, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as other drivers (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Then Governor Jimmy Carter was quoted to say “it is my view that efforts in highway safety matters should be multiplied, particularly with regard to education. Driver education in the public schools is an important element of our educational system, and it is through safety education that we can insure that we have highways free of unnecessary dangers” (Traffic Safety Education, October 7, 1976).

Insuring that teenagers take driver ed. or traffic safety before getting a driver’s license is an edge they need to help them drive and survive. May you make it so.

Joe Sabbadino

Vehicles Also Have Black Boxes

Crash information is provided by black boxes in planes — and also in cars!

Nothing is black and white about the black boxes.

Vehicle manufacturers started installing them in the mid-1970s to collect data to help manufacturers make vehicles safer. However, the purpose changed in 1999 when General Motors introduced a recorder that captured information about vehicle speed, RPMs, throttle position and braking to help for investigation purposes (Tim Evans, The Indianapolis Star, May 25, 2014).

It is also called EDR — “event data recorder” that gives information both before and after a crash. EDRs are now built into more than 90 percent of new cars, and the government is considering making them mandatory (Martin Kaste, All Tech Considered, March 20, 2013).

Would you like the information from your vehicle’s black box to be used against you in insurance investigations, or lawsuits, or even for criminal purposes? It is used in 70 percent of criminal prosecutions in Marion County in Indiana.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Hirschauer says that the data “tells us exactly what the vehicle was doing at the exact moment of impact, and in the seconds just prior” (The Indianapolis Star, May 25, 2014).

Where is the black box? The data recorder could be installed in the car’s airbag. It could also be a number of electrical components that store data following a crash. If used in court, it is the strongest witness regarding what happened to cause a crash.

There is much concern regarding guidelines and rules for black boxes. Some pertinent questions could include:

  1. Should car buyers be informed of the black box?
  2. Should car buyers have the opportunity to opt out of black box use?
  3. Should black box accident information be personal or public?
  4. Should black box accident information be used only for scientific improvement of vehicle safety?
  5. Can police use the black box accident information to determine fault?
  6. Can lawyers obtain the black box accident information for lawsuits?
  7. Can insurance companies get/use the black box accident information to give discounts, raise rates or cancel policies?

We used to say that nothing improves one’s driving like having a police car following you. We now can say that nothing improves one’s driving like knowing that your vehicle’s black box is ready to record all the facts that may be used against you if a crash occurs.

Joe Sabbadino

Texting Law is Needed

Safe driving is no accident. It is because of responsible parents and teens, driver education/training, DMV licensing, good laws, and better law enforcement. And all of the above work for safety and help keep motorists from being recalled by their Maker.

Safety researchers say 80 percent of vehicle crashes are attributed to distractions. Such distractions are responsible for some 5,500 automobile fatalities annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the problem of mobile phone use and texting and talking behind the wheel has become epidemic.

Practically all driver safety specialists agree texting is the major distraction causing crashes. The three main types of distractions are visual, taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking your mind off what you are doing. While all distractions can endanger safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distractions.

Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for up to 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field!

Most lawmakers agree “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6). May they listen to safety professionals and pass laws for better safety.

The June 2012 release by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that many state lawmakers are listening. It was mentioned that 39 states, D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. A texting bill is needed in South Carolina to build traffic bridges for young people (and others) to keep their blood off the highway.

A problem to overcome is distinguishing the difference between personal liberty and public safety. A person may feel he has the liberty to drive into an oncoming lane and crash, but we have laws to hinder such unsafe driving.

Texting causes unsafe driving. One’s personal liberty should end where public safety begins and good laws are needed to limit liberty when it comes to public safety!

There is a maxim that states “justice is better when it prevents rather than punishes with severity.” William E. Gladstone said that “good laws make it easier to do right and harder to do wrong.”

A good law with tough enforcement can help to reduce deadly distracted driving behavior. As the seat belt law encourages more seat belt use while driving, a texting law will encourage less texting while driving. May our Senate leaders soon pass the texting bill like the House has done!

Joe Sabbadino

The Worst Accident Investigated

I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. by a phone call telling me to hurry and get into uniform. There is a terrible accident on Highway 52S.

Half asleep I arrived at the accident scene only to find an automobile scattered all over the highway. Parts of the bodies were strewn over the entire vicinity.

I helped put parts of bodies onto sheets. In the dark of the night the essential parts could not be found. The undertakers had to return the next morning for the remaining missing parts.

During my investigation I learned that this family of seven had been to a church revival and was returning home when a tractor-trailer truck traveling in the opposite direction met the auto on a 15-degree curve head on, crumpling all passengers.

One small mistake of a single person ended the lives of seven people. He simply crossed the center line.

“There are two sides to every road — the right side and suicide.”

“A middle-of-the-road policy may succeed in politics, but it gets you into a lot of trouble on a highway.”

Lieutenant C.I. Coleman

Traffic Safety Needs for South Carolina

The recent texting law is a step in the right direction. It could be stronger. For example, our first offence’s texting ($25) fine is the cheapest except for California ($20). The average fine for other states is $165, although Alaska was not averaged in since the fine there is $10,000! Forty-four states, including SC has a primary texting law for all drivers. However, some states have points added to a fine (it is 5 points in New York). In some states texting can result in misdemeanor charges and if bodily injury is done, some states would give jail or prison time. More study is needed to make the SC texting law better.

The National Conference of State Legislatures mentioned that no state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers. Teens may be blamed too much as studies find adults distractions were not any better (Texting While Driving Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection). In this regard, parents need to take the hazards of texting and other distractions seriously when THEY drive; and responsibly helping their children develop safe driving attitudes. This is what drives a person’s behavior for safety! The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety noted that 13 states and D.C. ban hand-held cell phones for everyone. More study also needs to go into this—more than ten million drivers in the U.S. are using cell phones (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Another needed concern to help keep South Carolinians safe for years to come relates to Senator Massey’s Bill S 849 for all teenagers and up to 21 having to take driver education and/or driver training (perhaps 19 would be more ideal). Some facts that mandates better driver education for teenagers: one in three young people crashes in the first six months after they get a license and the fatality rate for drivers age 16-19 is four times that of drivers age 25-69. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen fatalities and about 44 percent of all teen deaths in 2003 were attributed to vehicle crashes. If such statistics aren’t bad enough, surveys indicate that less than 50 percent of new teenage drivers receive any formal driver education/training prior to receiving their license. At this time, only teens up to 16 have to take driver education or driver training in South Carolina. Nationwide, over 2,000 teenagers didn’t make graduation because of highway crashes (2,823 died in 2012 according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety).

Teenagers that take driver education and/or driver training should have the same standardized course for quality education throughout South Carolina. High school driver education and commercial driver training are under two agencies and the teacher preparation and student classroom teaching times are not the same. Driver Education is no longer mandatory curriculum in public high schools. Better drivers make highways safer. Work must be done to stop highway crashes being the number one killer of teenagers.

Another safety concern in South Carolina is that there is a loophole in making liability insurance mandatory for all South Carolina drivers. The uninsured motorist clause in the South Carolina Drivers Manual reveals this.

The ultimate safety is of the Lord (Proverbs 21:31; 29:25), but we need to be involved to “Make Safety First and Make It Last” (motto of Travelers Protective Association). President Warren S. Hastings mentioned that “we are all building traffic bridges for young people to keep their blood off of the highways. Give of your best to the cause.”

Southern Bell’s lofty goals for their drivers:

  • Only he can be safe who knows safety
  • Only he knows safety who thinks safety
  • Only he thinks safety who believes in safety
  • Only he who takes time to be safe is safe

Joe Sabbadino