Initial impact of new statewide texting ban may focus on awareness rather than major enforcement

Posted: Jun 12, 2014 9:02 AM EDTUpdated: Jun 12, 2014 9:02 AM EDT
By Patricia Burkett, News13 Senior Digital Journalist


FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) –Governor Haley signed a bill into law Monday that makes it illegal to text while you drive in South Carolina.

Under the ban, fines start at $25 and max out at $50, but you won’t lose points off your license for receiving a violation.

Drivers can still use cell phones for calls and GPS andyou can text for emergency services. 

Drivers are also allowed to text if you’re legally stopped at a red light or stop sign. 

Law enforcement cannot confiscate or view your phone to help determine if you were texting.

For those who’ve touted the dangers of the distraction, the ban’s a victory, and for those who oppose it, the penalties are small.

“It’s a balancing act… is this an invasion of our personal freedoms and liberties, sure, but we live in a society and it’s a very minimal invasion to try to stop something that is a pretty big problem,” Florence attorney Patrick McLaughlin said of the new law.

Some attorneys say the new law may not do all that much to punish offenders, but instead will help create change over time.

Many drivers say their main point of concern is being pulled over and given a violation for texting, if in fact, they were not actually texting on their phones.

“Law enforcement is subject to the same credibility issues that anyone else is when they go into court, and if they go into court saying something that’s not true, our judges and our jurors are going to know it and they’re going to hold them accountable for it,” McLaughlin said.

Several law enforcement agencies said Wednesday, that they’ve not yet formulated plans as to just how they’re going to enforce the law.

Officers will write warning tickets for the next six months, after which, the biggest penalty a driver could face, is a $50 fine.

Officers cannot pull a driver over for texting, unless they have a clear and unobstructed view of the driver using their cell phone for texting purposes.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big matter in the criminal courts, and let’s face it, most people aren’t going to fight it if they get one because the fine is minimal and it would be a heck of a lot more to pay an attorney to go out and try to fight it,” McLaughlin said.

While the ban may not carry the toughest of consequences, supporters say it does do one very important thing, raise awareness of an issue that’s not only dangerous but that is claiming lives on a consistent basis.

The new statewide ban will supersede any local laws involving texting while driving.

Montana is now the only state in the country, without a texting ban.

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