Beaufort's texting-while-driving ban goes into effect in 60 days

emoody@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 11, 2012 

  • Considered plans to upgrade fire station facilities in the Beaufort area. Focus is on building a new neighborhood station in the Mossy Oaks area to replace the existing structure. A presentation Tuesday focused on ways to build a "flexible" building that could become headquarters if desired in the future.

  • Considered a request for $50,000 from the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Enhancement Committee to support efforts to reduce the financial impact of budget cuts on local military bases. City manager Scott Dadson is recommending $20,000, over three years, because of cash flow issues.

  • Granted final approval to a law requiring new garages that face the street be 20 or more feet from the road. The change is to prevent parked vehicles from blocking sidewalks and roads.

  • Granted permission for the Beaufort Life Chain, a silent prayer to end abortion, to assemble at City Hall and along Boundary Street for its annual event on Oct. 28. The prayer is usually held at the Beaufort County Complex, which is undergoing renovations.

  • Granted permission for Mossy Oaks Elementary School to hold a 5k run/walk Oct. 13 in the Mossy Oaks neighborhood. Police Chief Matt Clancy did not recommend approval because the route involves many street crossings, so council said organizers must work with the police department to develop an alternative route.

Still texting while driving in Beaufort?

You have 60 days to cut it out.

Beaufort City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday night banning all drivers from texting while driving, and drivers under 18 from using a cell phone while behind the wheel within city limits.

The ordinance, however, will not be enforced for 60 days to allow time for an educational campaign to take place. City manager Scott Dadson said police chief Matt Clancy and public information officer John Williams are working on the plan, but did not have details Tuesday night.

Clancy recommended the campaign after talking to colleagues in other cities and states with similar bans.

Drivers who break the law would be cited and face fines starting at $50 and increasing to $150 for repeated violations, according to the ordinance.

A proposed statewide ban failed to pass the S.C. Senate before the General Assembly adjourned in June.The statewide ban passed in the House of Representatives and would have made it illegal for drivers under 18 to talk on their cellphones or text while driving, and criminalized cellphone use for all drivers in construction and school zones. Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. wrote the Beaufort ordinance, which is based on that version.

The Beaufort Police Department does not have statistics on local crashes involving texting, but it is a nationally recognized problem, Clancy said. The National Safety Council estimated that about 21 percent of crashes in 2010 involved drivers talking on the phone, and another 3 percent involved texting.

Beaufort joins six other towns and cities across the state -- Clemson, Walhalla, West Union, Columbia, Camden and Sumter -- that have banned texting while driving.

The ban does not apply to GPS and similar devices or to on-duty police, firefighters and other emergency workers. Beaufort police cruisers are equipped with computers. Drivers of all ages are allowed to report emergencies or call 911.

A police officer would have to clearly see a driver texting or typing before stopping him or her for violating the ordinance.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.

Related content:

Ban on texting while driving passes first reading

Beaufort considers education campaign before banning texting while driving, Aug. 20, 2012

Proposal forthcoming to ban texting while driving

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