A texting-while-driving ban will get a welcome review in the city of Charleston, beginning with a public hearing on Sept. 9. But don’t count on the county helping to lead the way on this important public safety issue.
While the city, the town of Mount Pleasant and the town of James Island are looking at a texting ban, Charleston County Council effectively put the brakes on it Thursday. County Councilman Joe Qualey couldn’t even get a second to his motion to reconsider a proposal to ban texting behind the wheel.
“I was disappointed I couldn’t get a second for discussion,” Mr. Qualey said. He had hoped the debate “would lead to a potential ordinance which I think is totally appropriate for safety purposes.”
Certainly, Mount Pleasant Town Council thinks a ban is needed. It recently gave initial approval to a texting while driving ban.
Charleston City Council is being more circumspect, with councilmen raising questions on Wednesday about how such a ban can be enforced. But at least they are seriously considering the issue.
With County Council’s delay, the town of James Island may have to throttle back on its plans to consider a ban. The town’s roads are policed by the Sheriff’s Department and its review will likely be conditioned on what County Council does.
The initial discussion by Charleston City Council raised questions about enforcement, whether the ban should extend to all handheld devices, and whether skateboarders and bicyclists should be similarly restricted in their use of texting devices while in motion.
Those are good questions, and the answers might be found in the laws already on the books of the 41 states that have banned texting while driving.
As the local discussion proceeds, elected officials would do well to seek some measure of uniformity among the respective jurisdictions.
But there should be no confusion about the need for a texting ban. It is fully warranted by both accident statistics and research.
County Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey tells us that the county wants to see first what the municipalities propose. Ideally, though, the state would take responsibility, he said.
But the state Legislature hasn’t shown much inclination to act on the matter, despite the obvious public safety need.
So it will be up to local governments to take responsibility. Eventually, that should include all jurisdictions in the Charleston metropolitan area, including Charleston County.
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