The message Gov. Nikki Haley sent recently was an important one: Don’t text while driving.
And the target of her message was apt — college students. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 25 percent of teens admit to sending or responding to a text message at least once every time they get behind the wheel. And texting while driving has been connected to wrecks, many of them fatal.
If the plea from Gov. Haley, and a cast of other state and business leaders, is answered, students at the University of South Carolina and Clemson University will sign pledges that they will not text while driving. And if they stick to their promise, the state’s roads will be safer.
We hope all students — indeed all drivers — across the state recognize, as she says, that “texting can wait.”
But we also hope that state legislators, and the governor, address the dangerous situation more effectively by making it illegal to text while driving. So far the Legislature has failed to act. In 2012, the House of Representatives approved such a measure, 93-15, but it went nowhere in the Senate.
Because of the Senate’s inaction, municipalities across the state have passed their own bans. That’s better than nothing. But the rules are not uniform, so it’s difficult for drivers to know what rules apply where.
And municipal leaders have said they would much prefer a statewide ban to a patchwork of local laws.
Gov. Haley is joined in her college challenge by Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer, Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides and Clemson University President James Barker, along with representatives from AT&T, the National Safety Council, State Farm Insurance Companies, Bojangles Restaurants and the South Carolina Insurance News Service.
Their participation is an acknowledgment of the real dangers of texting while driving, but it is not necessarily an indication that they endorse legislation banning it.
It should be. Objections don’t hold up under scrutiny. A ban is no more an abridgment of personal rights than is requiring drivers to be licensed and have insurance.
A ban is as enforceable as a seatbelt law, and seatbelt laws have been credited with saving countless lives.
Realistically, it is not so inconvenient for drivers to pull off the road before sending text messages, or, as Gov. Haley says, just to wait and text when they’re not behind the wheel.
It would be a great start if lots of USC and Clemson students were to take Mrs. Haley’s challenge and pledge not to text while driving.
It would be great if other drivers, students at other colleges, adults and high schoolers were to take pledges of their own.
And it would be really great if South Carolina’s legislators and the governor pledge to do their part to enact a legal ban on texting while driving across the state.