If South Carolina doesn’t pass a law to ban texting while driving, Charleston County should be prepared to create its own, County Councilman Joe Qualey said.
County Council’s Finance Committee will hold its first discussion on a texting ban tonight, but the group isn’t expected to vote on the matter.
Most people have either sent a text message while driving or have watched a car swerving on a highway as the driver was texting, Qualey said. “It’s time to do something about it.”
South Carolina is one of only a handful of states that doesn’t ban or limit texting while driving. Efforts to pass such a bill failed in the General Assembly last year after lawmakers expressed concern about personal liberties being taken away and the difficulty in enforcing such a ban.
In the Lowcountry, only the city of Beaufort has approved a ban.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, filed another bill for a statewide ban late last month. Gilliard said he was shaken after running a red light while reading a text. That’s why he sponsored a bill to ban it.
Under Gilliard’s plan, a first-offense conviction would bring a $250 fine or 30 days in jail, and would suspend the driver’s license for 30 days. A second offense would cost $1,000 or 60 days in jail and license suspended for 60 days, with two points on the driver’s license.
Qualey said he ran the idea of a countywide ban past Sheriff Al Cannon, who was open to a discussion. It’s important that officials who would enforce a ban are included in the discussion on creating one and putting in place, Qualey said.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jim Brady said Wednesday that Cannon didn’t have a comment on the matter.
Numerous studies have determined that texting while driving is a common and dangerous practice.
A new study by AT&T, which was released late last month, found that contrary to popular perception, texting while driving isn’t just a problem among younger drivers.
According to the study, nearly 50 percent of adult commuters of more than 1,000 surveyed stated that they had sent a text message while driving, and 43 percent of them said they did it habitually.
That means that commuters are texting and driving even more than teens. In a separate study conducted by AT&T, 43 percent of teens reported texting and driving.
Qualey said a ban would serve as a deterrent for a behavior that has become commonplace. “We can tell our kids that not only is it dangerous, it’s illegal.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.