SC renews effort to ban motorists from texting

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina lawmakers are trying again to ban texting while driving, a move that failed last session.

A Senate subcommittee on Wednesday approved S. 225, which would hit offenders with a $20 fine and a $25 charge for a state trauma care fund and add a point to their driving record. The bill would make various exceptions to the texting ban, including when a motorist is parked or stopped, using a hands-free wireless device or acting in an emergency.

The proposal would also create a six-month grace period during which officers would issue only warnings to offenders. It would allow first-time offenders to take an approved driver-education course in place of paying any penalty.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin testified Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass a state law. He said that although Columbia officials are weighing whether to impose a city ban on texting while driving, he would prefer statewide consistency instead of a city-by-city hodgepodge of ordinances.

"Not having several different laws applying to literally three or four jurisdictions that most of us probably drive through every single day would be very helpful," he said. "We look forward to you all pre-empting us at some point."

Austin Coates, of a motorcyclists' rights group called ABATE South Carolina, said the ban would improve biker safety but said the proposed fine was too small to present a deterrence.

A similar bill, H. 3119, was introduced in December by Rep. Joe McEachern, D-Columbia, who took issue with the patchwork of texting laws in the South. Georgia and North Carolina have bans, but Florida does not.

South Carolina's House passed a ban in the last session, 98-18, but the effort ran out of time in the Senate. Some said the issue illustrated a rift in the Republican caucus between traditional members and tea party-leaning lawmakers who saw the proposed texting ban as government intrusion.

Nearly 30 states have outlawed texting by drivers, and AAA and the Governors Highway Safety Association have both called it a hazard.

Reach Sarita Chourey at

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ken-to-go 02/17/11 - 07:49 am
Lets get real. I have always

Lets get real. I have always followed a pretty simple rule. If you can't enforce it don't waste your time. You have got to be kidding if you think this is going to curb this habbit. How about having the entire families account cell phone account closed for a period of time if they are found to be talking, texting, or whatever. Let the family deal with stupid not the public. These laws cost us all money and I'm tired of paying for stupid people and their actions. When Texting takes another family members life or even yours maybe then we'll stop tap dancing around the real problem.

corgimom 02/17/11 - 09:09 am
This isn't about enforcement,

This isn't about enforcement, this is driven by the insurance companies- as in "if you have an accident while texting, we will slap you with a huge surcharge because you were committing an illegal act"

Real Justice
Real Justice 02/17/11 - 10:10 am
The one thing that government

The one thing that government cannot regulate is common sense. If a texting ban is put in effect it must have some teeth. The fines must be at a level that it hurts, perhaps at the level of driving while impaired and must be effective immediately. The reality is that texters know it is idiotic to do it but they assume they are slick enough to do it and get away with it. You have to realize that the intellect of an individual that would actually do this is suspect and arrogant at best. If you are going to enact a law against texting while driving, which is way overdue, make it count.

Chillen 02/17/11 - 11:00 am
Now this is a law I can

Now this is a law I can support. Driving texters can adverstly affect the lives of someone else. Pass the law folks except make the fine about $500 not $20 or $25. Make them really, really think twice.

wonderdog 02/17/11 - 12:14 pm
What makes the difference

What makes the difference what the fine is? They won't be able to enforce it just like they can't enforce the car insurance law and the handicap parking law.

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