South Carolina lawmakers have overwhelmingly passed a statewide ban on texting while driving, something most states already have done.
Under the ban approved by the state House in a 94-2 vote and by the Senate 42-2 on Wednesday, drivers who violate the law would not receive penalty points, but would face fines starting at $25. However, the use of GPS navigators and texting to summon emergency services would be permitted.
Drivers would also be allowed to text on a hand-held device if stopped at a red light or stop sign.
Police would be prohibited from confiscating or viewing a cellphone to determine whether a driver was texting. During the first 180 days after the law goes into effect police would issue warnings before citations are handed out.
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The ban would supersede at least 19 local ordinances that vary by city, creating consistency across South Carolina.
Once it’s signed into law, South Carolina will be the 49th state to adopt a law on texting. Montana is the only other state that doesn’t have a texting ban.
Sponsoring Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, said the ban will save more lives than any other bill passed in years by preventing distracted driving.
“The ban will help protect the people of South Carolina, clear up confusing and irregular local regulations and make our roads safer around the state,” Sheheen said.
Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, said it is time that South Carolina finally got a texting ban. However, he said it should have gone further by targeting all hand-held use of cellphones while driving.
The difficulty will be enforcing the ban and determining whether someone is talking or texting on their cellphone, said Skelton.