CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – According to the National Safety Council, more than 40,000 people died on U.S. roadways last year and approximately 10,000 of those fatalities were due to distracted driving.

Distracted driving can be dangerous and deadly.

“Distracted driving would be defined as anything that would take your eyes off of the road,” Michelle Anderson, director of operations for the National Road Safety Foundation, said.

Last year was one of the deadliest years on roads across South Carolina.

“In 2021,” Anderson said, “there were 1,082 deaths in South Carolina and that is actually the highest since 2007.”

Experts says distracted driving constitutes more than just cell phone use.

“Distracted driving is not just that,” South Caroline Highway Patrol Trooper Nicholas Pye said. “It’s putting on makeup. I’ve seen people reading the newspaper before; children in the backseat talking to someone else, it’s numerous different things.”

They say teens between the ages of 15 to 19 are the most susceptible to be involved in distracted driving-related collisions.

“It’s not a place to multitask and when you have these young drivers that are,” Anderson said. “Again not experienced, and again, their brains are not fully developed, it’s really hard for them to be able to juggle more than one thing.”

Charleston Police Department Lieutenant Paul Krasowski says the state’s current distracted driving law is very lenient.

“We have to know that they’re actually using text-based communication for them to be in violation of the law,” Krasowski said. “An officer cannot tell whether someone’s texting or FaceTiming, and FaceTiming would be lawful in the state of South Carolina.”

He says there’s a “hands-free” bill under review in the House that may change that.

“I hope that our lawmakers recognize that and recognize that the hands-free law that is before them can save lives and be helpful for law enforcement to actually enforce these laws and create safer roadways for everybody,” Krasowski said.

South Carolina Highway Patrol says anyone who witnesses aggressive or distracted driving here in the Lowcountry is encouraged to dial *47 to report the driver.