A topical English class at Wetzel recently discussed safety on the roads in the U.S. with Wetzel’s Language Manager, Susannah Barba, and Greenville police officer Jonathan Bastoni, who explained some cultural differences related to driving safety.
Texting and Driving?
Some driving behaviors that are illegal in other places are not against the law here in the Upstate. For example, South Carolina is one of the few U.S. states that does not have a law against cell phone use–including texting–while driving.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that law enforcement recommends the risky habit. In fact, Officer Bastoni explained that a person who drives dangerously because of cell phone use could be ticketed for “negligent driving.”
Getting a Ticket
Officer Bastoni also explained what to do if you see blue flashing lights behind you while driving and realize that a police officer is pulling you over.
First, stay in the car, and wait for the officer to come stand by your car to talk to you. You will need to roll down your window to talk to the officer.
Second, while you’re waiting, get out your driver’s license, car insurance card and car registration papers. If you have an international driver’s license, you will also need to show your passport.
Speak respectfully to the police officer, but don’t be afraid. Politely ask him or her to speak more slowly if necessary or to repeat anything you don’t understand. For example: “Excuse me, officer, but I’m still learning English. Could you please say that again?”
If the officer gives you a ticket, it will be a piece of paper that identifies your offense (such as speeding or running a red light) and tells you how to pay the fine, which could be up to several hundred dollars. If you are guilty of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or illegal drugs, the fine will be very high.
If you think you did not deserve a ticket you received, you can contest it in court, which sometimes leads to reduced fines and points.
Don’t Get Too Many Points
South Carolina uses a 12-point system for drivers. Driving points are more like golf scores than soccer goals: the fewer, the better. Everyone starts with zero points, but if you break driving laws, you may have to pay fines and get points on your driving record. Points can lead to increased insurance costs. And if you get 12 points, you will lose your driver’s license.
|Driving up to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit||2 points|
|Driving 11 to 25 miles per hour over the speed limit||4 points|
|Driving more than 25 miles per hour over the speed limit||6 points|
|Reckless driving||6 points|
|Passing a stopped school bus||6 points|
The bottom line is, drive carefully. Not too fast, not after drinking alcohol, and not while on the phone. Expect other drivers to make mistakes, and keep distance between their vehicle and yours to avoid small accidents (“fender benders”). Better safe than sorry!
Best wishes for safety on the roads this spring!