Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous activities on the road, as dangerous as driving drunk. But that hasn’t stopped its growing use by irresponsible motorists.
That’s why a growing number of states have joined in banning texting behind the wheel.
At last count, 41 states have done so. Unfortunately, South Carolina isn’t among them, thanks to legislators who are somehow convinced that a ban would be an intrusion into the personal freedom of motorists.
Fortunately, there is a growing acknowledgement at the local level that something needs to be done.
Mount Pleasant Town Council last week gave preliminary approval to a texting-while-driving ban.
And next week, both Charleston City and Charleston County councils are expected to consider similar bans.
It’s an opportunity to save lives — one that council members shouldn’t squander.
The city’s Traffic and Transportation Committee on Wednesday will consider Mayor Joe Riley’s proposal for a legal ban on texting while driving.
Charleston County Council on Thursday will take another stab at a texting-while-driving ban to make roads safer in unincorporated areas.
In April, County Council’s Finance Committee rejected a texting ban. But Councilman Joe Qualey thinks heightened public awareness justifies its reconsideration. He is hopeful his colleagues will agree now that they’ve seen similar bans pass elsewhere, including Beaufort County and the cities of Beaufort, Columbia and Sumter.
There are numerous other reasons to ban texting:
■ Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting makes a driver at least 20 times more likely to have an accident or near-accident.
■ Distracted or inattentive driving this year has played a role in 23 fatal collisions, according to S.C. Department of Public Safety data. There have been 1,836 collisions that involved injury, 4,621 collisions that involved property damage and 6,480 total collisions.
■ A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that drivers who are distracted by mobile communication devices cause as much danger to public health as drunken motorists, speeders and those who do not use seat belts. And texting is the most dangerous of the distracting activities involving cell phone use.
If members of Charleston City Council and Charleston County Council aren’t convinced, they should try sending a text message and then imagine sending one while driving in traffic.
Or they should have a conversation with a parent whose child has been hurt or killed in an accident where texting was involved.
While they’re at it, they might invite council members from North Charleston, Folly Beach, James Island, the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Kiawah and Seabrook to join them.
It’s time for local jurisdictions to pick up the General Assembly’s slack — to ban what everyone knows is a significant danger to drivers, their passengers and the motorists and pedestrians around them.
Ban texting while driving.