Add the town of James Island to the list of local jurisdictions that are looking into a texting-while-driving ban. It’s the fourth jurisdiction this month to consider local action against a demonstrable hazard to motorists and pedestrians.
The town’s interest was sparked by a ban that will be considered by Charleston County Council’s Finance Committee on Thursday. If approved, it would ban texting while driving in the unincorporated portion of the county. The county ban would be policed by the Sheriff’s Department.
Since the department also provides law enforcement for the town of James Island, a town ban should provide for consistent enforcement on much of James Island, assuming approval by both county and town councils.
“A law is hard to enforce unless there is uniformity,” said Town Councilman Leonard Blank, who initiated James Island’s review.
Meanwhile, Charleston City Council’s Traffic and Transportation Committee today is expected to consider an ordinance banning texting behind the wheel, as proposed by Mayor Joe Riley.
So there is the prospect of growing uniformity in the metropolitan area on a texting prohibition for motorists.
Mount Pleasant Town Council gave initial approval to a ban last week.
Local officials should be applauded for recognizing the distracted driving hazard and responding to it. Numerous studies have shown that it is one of the most dangerous activities that a motorist can engage in — at least as dangerous as driving drunk.
Indeed, some researchers rank it as a higher risk, since texting motorists actually take their eyes off the road for an extended period.
So far 41 states have put bans in place, but not South Carolina. That’s why a growing number of local jurisdictions is doing so in the Palmetto State. So far, they include Beaufort County and the municipalities of Columbia, Beaufort, Sumter and Clemson.
Maybe our legislators will get the message by the start of the 2014 session. But in the meantime, it’s important for local elected officials to make a statement on a dangerous practice — one practiced by many teenage drivers.
Surveys have found that 40 percent of teens admit to texting behind the wheel.
The wrenching real-life consequences of texting while driving can be seen in filmmaker Werner Herzog’s brief documentary “From One Second to the Next” (www.itcanwait.com).
Local governments should send their own message with a texting ban that effectively crosses jurisdictional lines.
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