City of Charleston Officially Bans Texting and Driving, Plans to Educate Drivers
The City of Charleston passed a ban on texting and driving on Tuesday, October 8th. However, the council noted that there will need to be time to educate drivers about the new ban.
Police Chief Greg Mullen said that the council and local police will, over the next 30 days, put up signs, moveable message boards, and other media to advertise the new legislation. After that, another month will be dedicated to enforcement through warnings. Around December, strict cracking down on texting and driving will begin, with $100 tickets issued to violators.
Using a mobile phone to dial and talk is not covered in the legislation, only use of text messages or written media.
Chief Mullen said he will also spend time working with his department on learning the parameters of the new texting and driving ordinance. Officers must have a clear and unobstructed view of a suspected driver’s actions, which include “excessively manipulating the phone” without bringing the device to the ear. Police must establish enough probable cause to stand up in court.
Charleston’s texting and driving ordinance specifically says that a driver cannot look down to scroll through their e-stored music, use the phone’s GPS application while moving around town (unless GPS coordinates have been inserted into the phone before departure), and the driver cannot take and/or send photographs.
“Viewing, taking, or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving email, text messages, or other electronic data” are outlawed, the ordinance says.
The texting and driving ordinance has expanded the definition of “vehicle” to bikes, buses, golf carts, skateboards, mopeds, horse carriages, and rickshaws. Exemptions from the law are hands-free devices, and stationary and parked vehicles, as well as a driver attempting to contact 911 or emergency services.
When the texting and driving ordinance kicks in fully in December, officers will no longer have to pull over drivers for a secondary offence. Additionally, courts can subpoena a device’s use records during court cases.
The City of Charleston joins Beaufort County and Hilton Head Island in anti-texting and driving legislation.
A larger state ban on texting and driving is still pending, after it did not pass in 2012. Rep. Don Bowen of Anderson County, who has been pushing such legislation for two years, says he is confident the ban could pass this year.
“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.