OMG. A statewide ban on texting while driving has made it past one hurdle in the South Carolina Senate. Perhaps the Legislature will finally recognize the wisdom of a bill aimed at making our state's roads and highways safer, and pass it.
Efforts to stop people from sending text messages while they are driving have failed in the past. And while the present bill won the support of a Senate committee, it has detractors, people who say such a ban is generally unenforceable because police would have a difficult time getting an unobstructed view of the offense being committed.
That might be the case - just as it was once the case that police couldn't see whether drivers were wearing seat belts.
But a ban is necessary for several reasons. Municipalities across the state, aware of the increased risks of accidents and deaths when drivers are texting, have passed ordinances of their own. The one in Mount Pleasant is different from the one in Charleston, which is different from the one in Columbia, Greenville, Beaufort or Union. Texting while driving is distracting enough. Driving while texting to get information about where and how the rules change is downright hazardous.
The state bill would trump local laws.
It was submitted last year by Sens. Tom Alexander, R-Oconee, and Ronnie Cromer, R-Newberry, and resurrected this session. Having won committee approval, it will now go to the full Senate for consideration. Senators should take up the issue quickly and act favorably before too many more accidents occur due to texting.
It is encouraging that opposition in committee discussions was over the size of fines. That is an issue that can be negotiated without compromising the bill's integrity.
Some, like Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, suggest the bill doesn't go far enough. Distracted driving comes in many forms.
But the statistics demand something be done soon. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that a driver talking on a cell phone is 30 percent more likely to crash - and the probability is higher for people sending texts.
A driver's eyes and hands can't be fully engaged in driving when he is using both thumbs to punch in messages on a tiny screen.
The state can't eliminate the scourge of texting drivers altogether. But just knowing there is a law would raise drivers' awareness of the risks involved with texting, and make them think twice before trying it.
And those who go ahead and text and get hit with a $100, $200 or $300 fine might start thinking twice to avoid more of those painful fines.
As long as the state ignores the hazards of texting while driving, drivers will continue to steer with their elbows so they can use their hands to text and wonder whether what they're doing is illegal or not.
The state bans drinking while driving because it's dangerous. It's time to do the same for texting.
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