Charleston considering ordinance
Charleston has joined a growing list of South Carolina towns and cities considering regulations to prohibit texting while driving.
"I believe that an ordinance would warn people and discourage them from doing something dangerous," Mayor Joe Riley told City Council members at a meeting Tuesday.
The mayor said the city's legal team is crafting an ordinance that council could soon consider. Council members generally agreed that sending or reading text messages while driving is dangerous, but some raised questions about enforcement, or the need for a new law.
Councilman Aubry Alexander questioned whether texting is more dangerous while driving than smoking, eating or putting on makeup.
"I think it all falls under 'careless driving,' " he said, suggesting that drivers could be ticketed accordingly.
Sending a text message typically requires the sender to use at least one hand to type, usually on the keypad of a cell phone. Often, people writing text messages will use the thumbs of both hands to type, which would make driving at the same time particularly challenging and dangerous.
Councilman Jimmy Gallant said banning the use of hand-held devices while driving could eliminate questions about whether someone driving while holding a cell phone was texting or taking a phone call or perhaps checking the time.
Enforcing such a ban could be particularly challenging on James Island and in West Ashley, Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson said, because roads tend to go in and out of the city limits repeatedly, due to the patchwork nature of municipal boundaries in those areas.
City Council took no action but referred to its Public Safety Committee a suggestion by Councilman Mike Seekings that the city develop a policy prohibiting its own employees from texting in city vehicles.
Across the Cooper River, Mount Pleasant also is considering an anti-texting law, which was approved by a Town Council committee last week. And across the state, the city of Clemson on Feb. 15 banned sending or reading text messages or e-mail while driving, though that law hasn't taken effect yet.
Statewide limits on cell-phone use while driving are being considered in the Legislature, but Riley said there may be no statewide action this year, and municipalities have the authority to pass their own regulations.
In Columbia, the House has been working on a bill to ban text messaging or talking on a hand-held phone while driving. A bill in the Senate would ban texting and e-mailing while driving.