The City of Charleston could see a ban on texting and driving soon.
The Charleston City Council’s Wednesday agenda noted that an ordinance will be presented that could make it illegal for drivers to text and drive, or use their smart phones for certain purposes while behind the wheel.
“I think it’s very important and hope that we can get it passed. Texting while driving is very dangerous,” said Mayor Joe Riley.
The ordinance specifies that drivers not only cannot text and drive, they cannot read text messages or emails, write emails, use digital assistants, or type on a computer while driving. If an officer pulls someone over on reasonable suspicion of texting and driving, the ordinance states that the officer would be able to subpoena cell phone records for the court hearing.
However, the ordinance does not apply to drivers who use their phones while they are stopped or parked, or while they use factory-installed GPS or wireless devices that transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system. Drivers can also use voice-operated technology. The amendment would also not apply to law enforcement officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, or others who use such mobile devices to perform official duties.
The texting and driving ban would fine those caught using mobile devices $100. If the ban passes, it would go into effect in October 2013.
Despite South Carolina’s growing enthusiasm for texting and driving bans, Clemson Police Chief Jimmy Dixon remains skeptical. “It’s not ever going to be easy to enforce. We’re not going to stop it,” he said. “It’s a constant (educational) process.”
South Carolina’s Texting and Driving Bans Becoming More Popular
A similar texting and driving ban passed the Mt. Pleasant Town Council. On Tuesday, August 13th, a preliminary vote was 6-3 in favor of the ban, but it is not official yet. The official vote will be at the town council meeting on September 10th.
In early July, the Hilton Head Island Town Council passed a texting and driving ban in a 4-to-1 vote.
The new texting and driving ban in Hilton Head says that any motorist caught reading or composing electronic messages, from Facebook to texts, within the town limits will face misdemeanor fines. The first offense is $100, the second is $200, and the third is $300. However, the measure does specifically say that drivers can still use MP3 players, GPS navigation, and hands-free options on their phones.
Assistant town manager Greg DeLoach said, “The challenge is that you can educate a lot of residents on the island, but we have 2 million visitors a year.” He said he would prefer a state-wide texting and driving ban, to make the rules clearer to all drivers.
In March, the South Carolina legislature re-introduced a texting and driving bill, sponsored by Rep. Don Bowen of Anderson County, who has been pushing such legislation for two years. In 2012, the bill did not pass, but Bowen says he is more confident the bill will pass this time around.
“We’re hoping by putting the teeth back into the bill, and the awareness has become so much greater than it has in the past, that this time we won’t have the opposition that we’ve had to it,” said Bowen.
“The problem is that it’s going to require an officer that pulls you over to take your phone, and go through your phone to figure out what you were doing,” said Rep. Todd Rutherford of Richland County. “Because dialing on a cell phone and texting on a cell phone, how is the officer going to know the difference?”
The Strom Law Firm Prosecutes Texting and Driving
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, including one who was texting and driving, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. Our South Carolina car accident lawyers are prepared to fight for compensation in the courtroom and will defend your right to compensation for your past and future medical bills, lost wages and future earnings, your pain and suffering, and, in the event of a fatal car accident, even wrongful death. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so do not hesitate to contact us. 803.252.4800.