By banning drivers from texting while the car is moving, members of the S.C. Legislature are sending a message (when fully stopped, of course) about the importance of road safety.

More and more research concludes it is very dangerous to send and receive text messages while driving.

And common sense says a driver who is texting isn't watching the road, and at least one hand isn't on the wheel.

Specifically, a driver sending a text takes his eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that would be like driving the length of a football field blind.

It took several attempts during several legislative sessions before the General Assembly voted on a ban.

Some lawmakers previously objected, saying it was people's right to text while driving and the law would be difficult to enforce. They also predicted constituents would chafe at a ban.

But it is not a personal right to text while driving any more than it is a right to drive while drunk or to drive at all. Finally those lame objections were overcome at the Statehouse even as an increasing number of local governments, tired of legislative inaction, had adopted their own texting bans.

Enforcing one statewide ban will be much more feasible than enforcing the patchwork of municipal and county bans. The growing number of local bans demonstrates the public support for restrictions on texting by motorists.

Indeed, informal interviews conducted by Katie West of The Post and Courier indicated 100 percent support for a ban.

Gov. Haley should sign the bill as soon as possible for these reasons and for another: South Carolina ranks third in the country for dangerous highways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A texting ban is a good, inexpensive way to start improving that dismal standing. After all, a driving texter isn't simply a danger to himself. He's a danger to everybody else on the road.

The bill passed Wednesday doesn't go as far it should. It allows drivers to send and receive text messages when they are halted at a stoplight or stop sign.

Expecting drivers to pull off the road altogether makes more sense. That stoplight could turn green before the driver is finished with his text. And drivers behind him likely won't like cooling their heels while he completes his message and finally moves forward.

The penalty for texting while driving will be only $25 and will be charged only after six months, during which time texting drivers will receive warnings.

After living with these terms for a while, it could well become clear that the penalty should be stiffened.

It is time - actually past time - for South Carolina law to protect drivers throughout the state from the dangers of texting while driving. And it can begin as soon as Gov. Haley signs the bill.