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New state texting ban hitting local level

 

By Heather Walters

 

Local law enforcement officials are preparing to enforce a new statewide texting ban.

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley signed the no-texting ban into law on Monday, June 9. It took effect immediately. The ban makes it illegal for a person to use a “wireless electronic communication device to compose, send or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this state,” according to the law.

Specifically, the law also encompasses sending emails and instant messaging while driving, in addition to texting.

The only exceptions to the new anti-texting law are when a person is stopped at a stop sign or red light, if a driver is using a GPS function or hands-free device on their phone, or if the driver is texting a request for emergency assistance. Actually talking on the phone while driving is not illegal.

The new ban is enforced with a $25 citation for first-time offenders.

Walterboro Public Safety Interim Director Ken Dasen said he and the officers in his department are educating themselves on the law, and will soon begin enforcing it. “This texting ban needs to be in place because I’ve seen a lot of bad driving … I’ve almost been run off the road before by someone texting while driving. You see it all of the time,” said Dasen, who adds that the public safety department has not had any texting-while-driving traffic accidents occur. “People don’t realize how long they are actually taking their eyes off of the road while they are texting,” he said.

Dasen says he hopes to educate the community before the law takes effect. “I hope the new law includes a financial aspect to run public campaigns so that our drivers know of the new law and its ramifications,” he said. Dasen said he wants to prevent citizens from receiving tickets for unknowingly violating the law. He also wants local drivers to be safe, he said.  “We will give out warnings before issuing the actual citations,” he said. “The biggest part of this is the educational component of the law, to notify the public of the new law and to train the officers on the details. I hope the new state law includes some sort of additional educational funding to notify the public of the law and its details.”

The new ban voids all municipal-level texting bans that were already in place.

In Colleton County, the only municipality considering such a ban was the town of Cottageville, whose council discussed a ban earlier this year. However, no local legislation was passed. Other nearby towns, including Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, did pass local-level laws banning the act. Those bans are void and will be replaced by the statewide law.

Heather Walters (1738 Posts)