COLUMBIA - The ban on texting while driving is expected to come up for a vote at the Legislature on Wednesday, after members of both bodies reached a compromise.
Three members from the House and three from the Senate met on Tuesday to discuss what versions of the texting-while-driving ban they will agree on to send back to the bodies for a final vote. They agreed on leaning toward the House's version, which applies to all drivers; the Senate's was geared toward those with beginner's permits.
But there is a holdup as lawmakers work on clearing up a technicality. Once that's done, the bill will go back to both bodies for a vote.
"Everybody puts another person in jeopardy when they are texting while driving," said Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek. "Look out. There's a bill coming."
Past efforts to pass a statewide ban have failed. To fill the void, local governments around the state have banned the practice, including Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Columbia and Greenville. The state law would trump local measures.
If the bill is approved by both bodies, drivers will not be able to text or use their GPS even if they are stopped at a red light. The vehicle must be parked, said Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Conway.
It would be a primary law, which means a driver can be pulled over by law enforcement if spotted texting while driving; another offense, such as driving without a seatbelt is not needed.
The penalty for texting while driving will be civil and will cost $25. Once the law goes into effect, drivers will be given a six-month grace period where they'll receive a warning instead of a citation.
"We're going to lead with a carrot, not with a stick," Rankin said. "This policy is not about a punishment."
Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.