No more texting behind the wheel is allowed in the city of Charleston. But don't expect violators to start getting tickets immediately.
POLL: Do texting laws make driving any safer? Find this story at postandcourier.com to vote.
The ban passed by City Council on Tuesday will need time to be advertised to drivers, officials say, along with an education period about what's expected once they're on city streets.
Police Chief Greg Mullen said the plan now is to operate for the next 30 days by putting up signs, movable message boards and other media.
After that will come about 30 days of enforcement through warnings. Then, a strict crackdown will kick in with tickets of $100 — sometime in December.
Simply dialing, taking or making a cellphone call isn't covered by the city's prohibition; those activities will remain legal.
Mullen said it will also take time to educate his department on what the parameters of the ordinance are. A top lesson will be ensuring officers seek a clear and unobstructed view of a suspect driver's actions, enough to establish probable cause so cases will stand up in court.
The person who is excessively “manipulating a phone” without bringing the device to their ear to make a call — “that's what we are going to take action on,” he said.
City Council's final reading of its ban came with little fanfare. Charleston joins Mount Pleasant locally where texting while driving is outlawed. But Charleston's ordinance is strict in other ways and can be interpreted as targeting a list of potential contributors to distracted driving.
As written, drivers cannot legally look down to scroll through their e-stored music. Another taboo is on using a phone's GPS application while moving around town unless the sought-after address is plugged in before a car begins to move. Taking or sending photographs is also banned.
“Viewing, taking, or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving email, text messages, or other electronic data” are outlawed, the ordinance says.
Charleston also expanded its ordinance to cover a variety of wheeled vehicles to include bikes, buses, trucks, golf carts, skateboards, mopeds, horse carriages and rickshaws. The exception would be for a device that can be worked hands-free.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was a major supporter of the effort, saying it was both a safety measure and important for the city to have uniformity with Mount Pleasant considering so many people travel between the two municipalities.
When the stricter enforcement kicks in, Charleston's ordinance allows officers to write tickets when they see violators, meaning they don't have to stop a driver for a secondary cause. The fine runs to $100, plus court costs, and police can subpoena a device's use records if necessary to make a case.
Exemptions include cars that are in a stationary and parked position, people simply talking on a phone while moving, responders working in the course of official duties, or someone trying to contact 911 or other emergency causes.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.