Teacher’s widow pushes for change in distracted driving

State - Regional

It was a life of adventure for Jeffrey and Renee Pierce. She said his death on July 11, 2017 was two days before their 26th wedding anniversary.

“He lived life the the absolute fullest,” she said.

She said her husband left priceless memories for their two sons, Chandler, 14, and Alex, 21.  

“He and his son – the 14 year old would collect rocks everywhere they go,” she recalled.  

It was after taking his son to practice last July when Pierce said her husband was riding his bicycle as he’s done for years.

On New Cut Road near Reunion Road, troopers said a driver ran into the back of Pierce’s bicycle.

“We actually came upon the accident before the police had left to come to our house to tell us,” said Pierce. Authorities said he died at the scene. “It was one of those..um.. surreal moments.”

Pierce was a teacher with Spartanburg School District One.

Six months after the devastating day, troopers arrested Heather Hall and charged her with Reckless Vehicular Homicide.

Troopers said Hall was speeding and according to state patrol records a witness told investigators she appeared to be using her phone.

“It’s just senseless and there’s a lot of people out there that can’t fight,” said Pierce.

It’s a fight she’s taken upon herself to help stop distracted driving.

She spoke at a SC State House sub-committee meeting pushing for a bill that would create tougher penalties.

“South Carolina’s current texting ban doesn’t work,” said Representative Bill Taylor. “There are those who say oh I don’t want the government involved in this stuff.. That’s my freedom my right. Driving is not a right. It is a privilege granted by the state.”

Representative Taylor is proposing a new law for Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device (DUI-E).

Click here for previous story on the DUI-E bill

Pierce is pushing for change as she continues mourning her husband’s death.

“I still have notes from him on my mirror that he would give me,” said Pierce. “He was my support. I knew that he was always there, and that’s what I’ve really really really missed.”

She says she just doesn’t want anyone else to end up in her shoes.

“If it changes one, and that one person was a person that might have hit somebody or might have caused an accident, then it’s worth the change,” said Pierce.

The bill is in committee. The day it was presented, the House panel didn’t take a vote.

The new bill proposes the following:

  • DUI-E prohibits drivers from holding a phone in either hand.
  • DUI-E prohibits drivers from typing, sending or reading text-based communications.
  • DUI-E first offense: $100 fine.
  • DUI-E second & subsequent offenses: $300 fine and 2 points on your driving record.
  • DUI-E violations will be reported to insurance carriers like all other violations.
  • DUI-E violations prohibit arrest or incarceration.

Under the legislation, the following would still be allowed:

  • You can answer or initiate phone calls or text messages via voice commands using blue tooth, speaker phone, heads sets or some other hands-free device.
  • You can adjust your GPS mapping with voice commands or by setting destinations in advance of driving.
  • You are allowed to activate or deactivate a function of a wireless device (as example, your phone) with one swipe or a touch, but it still must not be in your hands.

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