Post targets distracted drivers
July 24, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Texting and driving has long been prohibited on Fort Jackson, but violators now face fines and the possible loss of driving privileges on post.
Fort Jackson is cracking down on distracted drivers, primarily those who use electronic devices like smartphones while driving. Anytime drivers text, use a cell phone or navigation system or do anything that diverts their attention from the road, it creates opportunities for accidents to happen, said Maj. Brad Fisher, provost marshal for Fort Jackson.
"Based on the time that I spend out on the road here at Fort Jackson, I can see it's definitely a problem here," Fisher said. "The problem is exacerbated by the fact that, in South Carolina, there's no such law against using a cell phone while driving. You can talk on your cell phone all you want, but you can't here on a federal installation. Anyone who works on Fort Jackson should certainly know that cell phones are prohibited while driving."
Using an electronic device while driving has always been against regulation on Fort Jackson, but Fisher said the post has recently raised the penalty for violations.
"Given the frequency of violators on the installation, the commanding general asked us to look into suspending privileges for this for a second, third and fourth offense," he said.
The first offense carries a $75 fine. In addition to the $75 fine, a second offense will result in the suspension of driving privileges for three months, while a third offense will suspend offenders' driving privileges for six months. A fourth offense will prohibit someone from driving on post for a full year. If an accident is caused by a person using an electronic device, driving privileges can be suspended even for a first offense, Fisher said.
Leaders took a look at the penalties for distracted driving following a recent wreck on post.
"A driver of a commercial box truck collided with a Soldier on a motorcycle at the intersection of Lee and Semmes roads because he was using a cell phone," Fisher said. "That's just one example. There have been others besides that one that have been caused by distracted driving, and that's a fact. But that's a recent case that stands out."
"Electronic devices" are defined in Fort Jackson regulations as mobile/cellular telephones or any other device that is used to access wireless telephone services such as smartphones, personal digital assistants or global positioning systems and any other device used to transmit voice or data wirelessly.
Drivers may use a cell phone in a vehicle that is safely parked, or with the use of a hands-free device. Hands-free devices which are worn may only occupy one ear Fisher recommends keeping all electronic devices stowed while driving. If military police officers see a cell phone in the hand of the driver, they can still issue a citation. Even if a driver can demonstrate that no phone calls were made or texts were sent around the time of the traffic stop, a citation can still be issued because phone logs can easily be altered.
Fisher also warns that military police don't even have to see the device in the driver's hand in order to issue a citation. Officers are looking for signs that indicate that an electronic device is being used, and one common indicator is a motorist repeatedly looking down and reading something with only one hand on the steering wheel.
"Don't have it in your hand," Fisher recommends. "If we see it, we're going to give you a ticket."
Electronic devices can only be used when the car is stopped and safely parked, but can be used in speakerphone mode when not being held, he said.
Drivers most likely to have difficulty on post are guests during family day and graduation events. Fort Jackson is taking measures to inform visitors of distracted driving regulations, Fisher said.
Police, fire and EMS personnel may use any electronic device only in the performance of official duties.
"The units are sending out notices through Facebook outreach, and as part of the information they send out to families prior to graduation," Fisher said. "Also, the Directorate of Public Works has placed new signs at the gates about cell phone regulations. It's something people will see when they're coming on post."