If the reason for enacting a state ban on texting while driving is to make roads and drivers safer and to replace the present patchwork of local bans, then the Senate is heading in the wrong direction.

Instead of simply banning texting while driving, the Senate wants to muddy the issue by barring young people from texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. And by banning any driver from texting while driving in a school zone.

There should be no question that young people shouldn't be texting while driving. Nobody should. Indeed, 50-year-olds are likely to be far less facile texters than teenagers are. For either old or young, texting is a distraction. It is considered more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol. Texting is a factor in many traffic accidents, including fatal ones.

Additionally, there should be no question about banning texting while driving in a school zone where children, on foot or on bicycles, are particularly vulnerable.

But if the Legislature would simply ban texting while driving, school zones would be safer. So would hospital zones and business zones and zones where tourists flock, and often walk, confused, into traffic.

The House has passed such a bill, which is in a Senate committee. And the House Education Committee last week wisely expanded the Senate's proposal to mirror the House bill.

The Legislature has toyed with previous proposals to ban texting while driving and come up short. It appears that there is a will to do something now, and it would be a pity to squander that opportunity by quibbling over unnecessary caveats to a ban. The governor needs to be given a clear, direct bill to ban texting while driving. A limited ban exempting older drivers suggests that it is safe for them to text. It isn't.

And it isn't safe for those older drivers' children to be on the road with anyone, of any age, and in any zone, who is texting while driving.

Forty-three states already have faced up to the dangers of drivers who text and have passed laws against texting while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In South Carolina, where the Legislature has failed to ban the practice, municipalities have imposed their own bans. That means drivers are expected to know that when they leave Charleston and enter Mount Pleasant, the rules change.

And when they enter North Charleston, there is no ban at all. Keeping up with the hodgepodge or laws is a distraction in itself.

The problem is clear and the solution is easy.

Ban texting while driving in South Carolina.