MOUNT PLEASANT -- Emily McNeely was taking her dog to be groomed when she paused for a moment to offer her opinion of texting while driving.
"I definitely think it should be illegal. People aren't paying attention. They are messing around on their phones and swerving on the road," she said.
An acquaintance was in a "horrible accident" while text messaging. "Thankfully they lived. But they were texting and they admit it," McNeely said.
It was a familiar refrain among some shoppers and retailers at Northcutt Plaza.
"I actually tried texting while driving and I was swerving all over the place," said Crystal Richardson, a T-Mobile sales associate. Texting and driving is risky, but talking on the cell phone while behind the wheel should be allowed, she said.
West Ashley resident Scott Obbish enjoyed a slice of pizza outdoors at the plaza. He recently traveled to California where he said only hands-free wireless is allowed in the car. He gave the thumbs up to a texting ban in vehicles. "It's probably a good idea. It's just less distraction probably," he said.
Town Council's Police, Legal and Judicial Committee on March 1 voted 3-1 to ban texting while driving. Mayor Billy Swails and Council members Thomasena Stokes-Marshall and Nick Collins favored outlawing texting behind the wheel. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Council has a public hearing on the issue. A Council vote on the committee recommendation has not been scheduled.
Clemson City Council on Feb. 15 became the first in the state to impose a municipal ban on texting behind the wheel. Clemson University researchers found that when drivers were texting at least some part of the vehicle was out of the lane 10 percent of the time.
Although he supports a texting ban, Swails indicated that he thinks the issue is best handled by the General Assembly. The House of Representatives on March 11 approved a bill that prohibits sending text messages on a cell phone while motoring. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.
Swails said that he is looking to the Legislature to address the issue statewide because that would eliminate the possibility of a confusing patchwork of regulations. For instance, texting might be illegal in Mount Pleasant but legal on Isle of Palms, or vice-versa. "Hopefully we get some traction in the Legislature. I hope they do it (ban texting) before we do it. In this case, it really needs to be a statewide ban rather than one municipality," he said.
Charleston is considering a prohibition on texting while driving. The City Council referred the issue to its Public Safety Committee. City Council plans to wait and see what the General Assembly does with the issue before moving ahead any further on it, said Barbara Vaughn, director of media relations.
Nineteen states, including North Carolina, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws governing texting while driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has determined that texting diminishes motorists' attention on the road by as much as 80 percent, which is a much greater safety risk than cell phone use. Texting while driving has been banned by President Barack Obama for federal agencies, and at least one South Carolina agency, the Department of Transportation, has done the same.