South Carolina is in desperate need of a statewide ban on texting while driving. The state Senate is historically where these bills have stalled, even after they were passed in the House. Today’s Senate should be showing leadership and concern for constituents’ safety on the roads while restoring public confidence in the legislative process by passing an anti-texting-while-driving bill.
Legislators are elected to oversee and protect the good of the public. By failing to pass an anti-texting-while-driving bill, legislators are ignoring the fact that more than 850 people die annually on South Carolina roads. South Carolina and Montana consistently rank among the top three deadliest states to drive in, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are also the only two states in the country without any laws regulating cellphone use while driving. This is a law that could save many lives.
There are many reasons South Carolina should enact an anti-texting-while-driving law:
• Drivers are 23 times more likely to crash when texting while driving, making it more dangerous than drunk driving.
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• Texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road an average of 5 seconds. That’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.
• Texting not only takes drivers’ eyes off the road, but also their hands are off the wheel and minds are off the task of driving.
A November 2013 survey of 600,000 AAA Carolinas members in South Carolina showed that 99 percent of respondents were in favor of anti-texting regulation for ALL drivers.
Representing nearly 14 percent of the state population, more than a dozen municipalities in South Carolina have passed their own laws against texting while driving.
Opponents of an anti-texting law say it’s hard to enforce. However, cities and counties in South Carolina with anti-texting laws have already issued hundreds of tickets. Additionally, once a law is passed, most law-abiding drivers who text today will refrain.
Opponents also believe that the government shouldn’t tell people what to do behind the wheel, but is it an individual’s right to endanger others on public roads? Traffic laws are designed to protect the driving public, not defend individual choices that risk the lives of others.
It’s time for the Senate to pass an anti-texting-while-driving bill. The evidence clearly is stacked in favor of it. And why would South Carolina, with its deadly record, want to be the last state in the country to pass such a law?
The writer is the CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.