Charleston Mayor Joe Riley has offered a more defined ordinance banning texting behind the wheel that seeks to curtail device use for most anything except talking.
And while City Council won’t debate the latest offering until next week, there are some areas that are sure to draw attention.
Wording in one section of the ordinance targets “viewing, taking or transmitting” images from behind the wheel, which would amount to no snapping of photographs.
Taken to the extreme, the ban could also be interpreted as prohibiting drivers from searching through their portable music, though the mayor said that’s not the intent.
In a letter to City Council, Riley said his idea is to have Charleston fall more in line with the texting ban already imposed by the town of Mount Pleasant. Uniformity in enforcement on both sides of the Cooper River is the best way to go, he said.
“Many of our citizens travel between Charleston and Mount Pleasant on a daily basis,” Riley wrote in the letter that was drafted in advance of Tuesday’s scheduled council meeting, where the ban will have its first reading and debate.
“Citizens can now be assured that when they cross the boundaries between Mount Pleasant and the City of Charleston, they will be expected to comply with virtually the same law relating to their use of electronic devices,” he added.
Riley’s offering covers a wide array of device use to cover texting “and other visual-manual subtasks,” such as emailing.
Among the areas listed as out of bounds use are “viewing, taking, or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving email, text messages, or other electronic data,” the ordinance says.
The ordinance also makes it clear that officers cannot stop someone suspected of violating the text ban unless there is probable cause a violation has occurred. That would be based on an officer’s “clear and unobstructed view,” the proposal reads, of someone’s use of a handheld electronic communication device.
The amended offering illustrates part of the divide among some members of council. For instance, Councilman William Dudley Gregorie still holds to the idea the city should go “hands-free” for all modes of transportation, including for cars, skateboards and bicyclists. It would ensure uniform safety, he said Friday.
Anyone violating the ban faces a fine of $100 plus court costs, the ordinance says. Police could subpoena records of the device, if necessary.
Listed exemptions to the ban include cars that are in a stationary and parked position, people simply talking on a device, responders working in the course of official duties, or someone trying to contact 911 or other emergency or public safety forces.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.