Edgefield lawmaker doubts cell, driving dangers

texting billboard
Texting billboard
Billboard warns of texting dangers

COLUMBIA -- A local lawmaker said today he strongly opposes restrictions of cell phone use while driving, arguing that he's not convinced the practice is dangerous.

"I haven't seen evidence that it's necessary," said Sen. Shane Massey of a proposed ban on handheld cell phones behind the wheel.
"I know there's a lot of speculation out there," added the Edgefield Republican who represents part of Aiken County and ultimately supported a looser bill. The bill before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee, S. 642, was changed from prohibiting all handheld cell phone use to one that only bans texting. It cleared the subcommittee with Massey's support and was also amended to apply to drivers of all ages, instead of only to those younger than 18.
Last month a AAA representative told House lawmakers that nearly 2,600 people nationwide died in cell phone-texting related crashes, and that drivers who use cell phones while driving have the same motor skills as people with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.
Today, Massey, a candidate in the the 3rd congressional district race, questioned where lawmakers should draw the line on activities that distract drivers from the road. He said GPS navigational devices and cell phones both require someone to type in information. But subcommittee chairman Sen. Jake Knotts, R-W. Columbia, said people typically punch in destinations before they embark on their trips.
The the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that nearly 6,000 people died nationwide in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver.
"If we wanted to tackle that as a whole, I'm more than willing to sit down and try to deal with that," said Massey, adding, "A gentleman passed me on the interstate reading a book while he was driving."
Lawmakers deferred action on how large to make the fine, which Knotts suggested should be $25, and where the revenue from the fine should go.
The bill, S. 642, is one of half a dozen proposal lawmakers are considering to limit cell phone use by drivers.

Reach Sarita Chourey at sarita.chourey@morris.com or (803) 727-4257